Local developers eye vacant Eastown storefront for Grand Rapids' brewpub

Deborah Johnson Wood

It's been vacant for over a decade, but the eyesore at 1551 Lake Dr. SE in Grand Rapids' Eastown could soon be an intimate brewpub cooking up unique libations like Crossroads Pale Ale and Grand Rapids Red Wheat.

Brothers Barry and Jackson VanDyke and their sister Heather VanDyke-Titus bought the former Jack's Liquor and plan to create Harmony Brewing Company under their development company Bear Manor Properties. The trio is known for its hand in developing The Electric Cheetah, Brick Road Pizza and The Meanwhile bar.

"The small scale of this building allows us to do what's in essence glorified home brewing," says Barry VanDyke. He and Jackson have been home brewers for 10 years and will move their expertise to the brewery. "We're not going to be a big brewery, but will be a brewpub, brewing only for consumption on-site."

The property is a 1920s house with a separate liquor store added to the front in 1933 – the year Prohibition ended.

The place has been gutted, exposing the house's façade on the interior wall of the former liquor store. That section will have customer seating and a small bar, with additional seating in the house's living and dining rooms.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the renovation will be the brewery itself.

"We're going to completely cut out the floor in the kitchen, so from the basement you'll be able to see the ceiling of the kitchen," says Barry VanDyke. "We'll stack in our brew kettle and mash tun and will be piping the brew up to a hallway where we'll have seven fermentation tanks."

VanDyke says the place will have an atmosphere more like a coffee shop than a pub, with the intention of being a family-friendly hangout that also serves ice cream and homemade root beer. A lunch and dinner menu will include garden-inspired dishes, salads and breads. Special "tasting plates" will be designed to be paired with specific beers.

Previous plans for a rooftop deck have been nixed in deference to the wishes of neighbors.

To-date, the Grand Rapids Planning Commission has approved the project, and the Uptown Corridor Improvement District board has given its okay to pursue a liquor license, VanDyke says. The project still has to get the go-ahead from the Grand Rapids City Commission, the state and the federal government, but VanDyke is optimistic for a late spring 2011 opening.

Source: Barry VanDyke, Bear Manor Properties

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at [email protected] Development News tips can be sent to [email protected]

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