Grand Slam Subs socks a homer, welcomes first customers after two years of setbacks

After two years of setbacks, and working with what the owner calls a "miniscule budget," Grand Slam Subs (600 Lake Michigan Dr. NW) has rounded the bases and crossed home plate on its feet.

Aaron Baker, owner, began the process of renovating a non-descript building on the corner of Seward Avenue NW and Lake Michigan Dr. NW way back in 2010 -- a building that sat vacant and decaying for years. Complicated zoning issues, neighborhood concerns, and a lack of funding assistance made him nearly throw up his hands in defeat.

Instead, Baker, 31, pushed forward and opened his baseball-themed Grand Slam Subs earlier this month. His enthusiasm is evident in his fast chatter punctuated with laughter.

"We have [ball] gloves and baseballs hanging from the ceiling, pictures of the old Chicago stadium, old baseball logos and graphics, and my favorite is a Babe Ruth sign that says 'Never let the fear of striking out get in your way,'" Baker says, barely taking a breath.
    
The inspirational Babe Ruth poster might well be Baker's personal motto given the number of strikeouts he had.

Baker says he met with the City of Grand Rapids and The Right Place, Inc., looking for grants or incentives to revitalize the abandoned Metrol Controls building. He says the project didn't qualify for anything. He says he also asked the Downtown Development Authority for help, but the building was just 50 or so feet outside the DDA's west boundary, which runs down the middle of Seward Avenue NW.
    
"We looked into historical grants," Baker says. "We looked into Brownfield redevelopment, economic development initiatives, SmartZones, Corridor Improvement Districts, Neighborhood Enterprise Zones, Renaissance Zones, and abatement grants. All these incentives, grant money, and financial assistance for a building and a project that should have warranted assistance and nothing was available!"

All that is in the past. Grand Slam Subs "Bull Pen, Sluggers, and Fielders" menu now offers customers a variety of fresh sub sandwiches and a veggie burger, as well as soups, salads, white chicken chili, and soft drinks.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., but will stay open later when it's busy.

Source: Aaron Baker, Grand Slam Subs
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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