Young entrepreneurs to open beer maker, wine maker store in Grand Rapids' Midtown

Brewing up a batch of India Pale Ale, cherry wine, hard cider or even champagne could be easier in a couple of weeks when O'Connor's Home Brew Supply opens in Grand Rapids' Midtown neighborhood.

The store (613 Lyon NE) is the first retail effort of entrepreneurs Ben and Allison O'Connor. Ben, 29, a Grand Haven native, quit his job in Raleigh, N.C. as a computer mapmaker for engineers and architects, and Allison, 28, a native North Carolinian, quit hers as a high school history teacher to move to Michigan and become part of what Ben O'Connor calls a "mini stimulus" economic solution. Setting up shop just doors from Martha's Vineyard, a favorite haunt of wine and beer connoisseurs, could be a good start.

"When I was living in North Carolina a friend told me how fun it was to brew," says O'Connor. "I went to a home brew shop and bought a starter kit and just kept getting more and more into it."

The 800-square-foot shop has a rustic feel with its painted wood floors, a functioning antique Kenmore freestanding gas stove and custom-made wood shelving. Product offerings range from starter kits for wannabe brewers of beers, wines and hard ciders to equipment and fresh barley and other grains for advanced brewers.

"We'll sell a couple of premade mash tuns for all-grain brewing, and specialty parts like valves, high-temp rubber tubing, keg systems, stirring paddles and fermenting buckets," O'Connor says.

"We wanted to do something different with our lives and we were blessed enough to be able to do it," he adds. "I was tired of hearing everyone write Michigan off as dead. I wanted to do my part and I wanted to let people know it's not over and we can get out of this rut we're in."

The O'Connors hope to open in mid-March. Their hours will be 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tues. through Fri., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sat. and Sun.

Source: Ben O'Connor, O'Connor's Home Brew Supply
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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