Entrepreneurs Kyle Van Strien and Jon O'Connor have some spirited plans to bring Grand Rapids its first neighborhood distillery and tasting room.
The pair and a silent partner purchased an 8,000-square-foot building at 537 Leonard St. NW on the corner of Leonard and Quarry St. NW, and have begun the process of converting it into Long Road Distillers, LLC
, a full-on spirits distillery with customer amenities.
First, two upstairs apartments and a main level clothing store must be vacated, according to federal law. The building must be completely production-ready and a bond in place before the final licenses can be procured.
"We will be doing production onsite in about 2,500 to 3,000 square feet for production and storage," Van Strien says. "We'll serve cocktails and have the spirits tasting room in the front, with overflow seating upstairs. We'll produce everything onsite. We want to take the microbrewery model and apply it to the distillery, and have people come and hang out and learn about how we source and make the products."
O'Connor, a real estate broker and appraiser with West Michigan Appraisers
, and Van Strien, project coordinator for Friends of Grand Rapids Parks
, will be the head distillers and will work at the business full-time once everything is in place.
"Our goal is to source as much of our inputs from Michigan as possible; our vodka will have as much grain from West Michigan as possible," O'Connor says. "We'll start with vodka, gin, a flavored vodka, possibly a rum that will be sourced outside Michigan for the cane sugar, and an un-aged whiskey. We'll grow into producing aged whiskey and rye, which take years to age. Smaller companies have the ability to push the envelope with experimentation and work with fruit, grains, and botanicals to provide flavor and sources for our products."
No opening date has been set, but the guys are shooting for a fall 2014 opening, if the licensing and build-out processes fall into place.
Van Strien and O'Connor are good friends with Max Trierweiler and Chris Andrus, who own Mitten Brewing
just across Quarry St. Mitten Brewing aims to triple its beer production by expanding into a second building on the same corner. Read the story here.
"We can't sell their product, they can't sell ours (because of licensing restrictions)," Van Strien says. "But we're definitely excited about partnering with them and catalyzing economic development in the area. There's a lot of new energy developing right there on that corner."
Long Road Distillers goes before the Grand Rapids Planning Commission for a special land use permit on March 27.
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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