G-Sync: Creston Brewery showcases how a neighborhood business can be a catalyst for community

Over the last 19 years, I have had the privilege to watch my neighborhood of Creston go through so many changes as a volunteer of the Creston Neighborhood Association (CNA). 

While the growth has not always been as fast as other places around West Michigan, to the residents the pace quite honestly has been over the years refreshing and lovely as the changes experienced are centered on the community as a whole. In short, the charm of Creston is truly the people who inhabit Grand Rapids’ largest neighborhood.

As many of us have watched from a distance the then under-utilized and majestic, two-story former DeKorne building on the corner of Plainfield and Quimby, we could not help but imagine what could inhabit this space. 

Now that it has been turned into Creston Brewery, those in the area cannot imagine our neighborhood without them.

On Thursday, January 9, Rapid Growth welcomed to the WGVU Morning Show with Shelley Irwin, Creston Brewery’s Brianne Hubbard-Ross, one of the taproom managers at the brewery. You can listen to an archive of that interview here

What makes Creston Brewery so unique in our community is that it was conceived on the idea that great beer could bring a community together. 

Hubbard-Ross writes, “In 2016, we saw that one of the most historically rich neighborhoods in Grand Rapids was ready for the change a brewery could bring. Just like the building Creston Brewery resides in, the community had great bones bursting with potential and so in the summer of 2016, friends and co-owners Scott and Molly Schultz and Vince Lambert and Cailin Kelly opened their dream to the world.”

As they continued to evolve in their mission to provide a space for the community to flourish, the Creston Brewery expanded to add a second-floor special event venue called the Golden Age. And then in 2019, the brewery took another step in their evolution to provide space within the brewery to incubate the launch of co-owner Cailin Kelly’s Boop de Boom — a coffee lounge. 

Tommy Allen
Publisher, Rapid Growth


Tommy Allen: I know we discussed in our Morning Show with Shelley Irwin interview the high-value Creston Brewery places on being a welcoming place by holding space for the community to flourish. Now that you are a few years down the road since that mission’s launch, how is it evolving within your business? 

Brianne Hubbard-Ross: We’ve always been community-centered and driven, but there have been some setbacks in the development of the district that forced us to shift the ways we contribute. Our Pack the Pub program for non-profits is a very successful way to drum up business and provide exposure to the amazing work the organizations in the area do. They help us and we help them; we also donate a portion of sales to the non-profit. We do one of these per month and always make a point to diversify the types of organizations we support, but it’s always a local non-profit. 

We’ve done coat, food, and toy drives as well. We exhibit local artists within the taproom quarterly in which any of the displayed pieces can be sold. A huge part of the community is our weekly open mic, Creston Vibes, where all artists are welcomed and everyone gets to engage in peace and love. 

TA: When we look at the taproom’s board of beers that rotate in and out of production, many of these beers have roots within the region we find the brewery. How do you not only determine these names and styles of beers attached but also how do you define their meaning for those who inquire about them? 

BHR: I have to chalk this up to brewmaster Scott Schultz’s brilliance in how he wanted to show tribute to the Creston neighborhood. He has the final say in the name of a beer and there’s always, always a story, a method to the madness, if you will, in how we conceive them. 

Some of our beer names are just namesakes to the neighboring streets like Quimby, Sweet Street. Others are tributes to public figures that inspire us, like Mayor Bliss. She is a huge fan of dark beers, so we named our house oatmeal stout Blissed Out. 

Polar Bear is a shout out to the old Creston High School mascot of what is now City High School, which is just down the street from the brewery. There’s such a rich history to draw inspiration from that we make sure we give each and every employee a history lesson at their orientation, so they may better engage with our guests, which many of have been living in the neighborhood for decades, yourself included Tommy. 

TA: Awwww, thanks for the shout out. We recognize that what Creston Brewery offers is truly unique here within the community of brewers, so how do you maintain that mission while continuing to grow?

BHR: Our Co-owner and CFO, Vince Lambert works ‘round the clock to ensure that Creston Brewery is profitable and continues to benefit the community around us. When we opened, it was imperative that we anchor our business to the revitalization of the Creston neighborhood. We wanted to be a product of the community, not just absorb what it had to offer us. 

With this motivating a lot of our decisions as it came to taproom operations, we found that those who visited us recognized the authenticity in our mission, which turned them into regulars. We love how things have come full circle. We do whatever we can to support the businesses around us and in turn, it creates business for us. One hand feeds the other. 

TA: Recently you incubated an emerging coffee shop in Creston. I was amazed to realize we do not have one in the Creston corridor so how did this come about and how is it working?

BHR: Co-owner Cailin Kelly had an initial vision for Boop de Boom to open across the street from the brewery, but it ended up manifesting in the under-utilized space within the brewery business. 

It seemed crazy to think there wasn’t a place to get an amazing latte and get some emails answered. Cailin recognized this need within the district and was able to offer a new take on a coffee lounge. 

I think at first it caught folks by surprise to think of a coffee shop located within a brewery, but they really do lend themselves to each other. Now guests are starting to pile in early in the morning, stay through lunch, and leave once happy hour is over. 

The Boop de Boom staff has very talented baristas that curated a delicious menu that features several vegan options for breakfast that come from local vendors. It was a welcome addition and the third entity to the Creston Brewery brand, the second being the Golden Age special events space. 

TA: Considering all the changes you have made at Creston Brewery, what are some long-term goals you hope to see not only for your business and its many layers but what are you hoping to see grow out of what you have started here in your neighborhood?

BHR: Long term goals … whew. I mean, I genuinely believe in the brand of Creston Brewery. I often refer to the Creston Brewery as an envelope that houses many entities, some are small and others can be the same dimensions as the envelope itself. 

It’s my long term goal to maintain the authenticity of why we went into business in the first place and not lose sight of what brings us all together. Personally, I am taking steps towards growing the open mic I host with fellow spoken word artist Kyd Kane. The two of us have such a natural ability to create off of each other and I only see good things for us this year. One thing I know we’d like to do is a poetry playoff, but we haven’t hashed out the details completely. 

The potential for what Creston Brewery can be is immense and I plan on spearheading plenty of projects to make sure that our vision is long-standing in the neighborhood. 

We spoke briefly about the potential gentrification of the district and I know we both feel strongly about maintaining a true Crestonian attitude towards anything that seeks to drive out the organic, blue-collar residents here. It’s my hope that our corner stone building can be the cornerstone of the district and inspire more small businesses to choose Creston as their place for development. 

Additional insights from Hubbard-Ross: 
Down the road, she seeks to offer in the Creston neighborhood more beer-related events, like beer dinners, brewery and facility tours, open tastings, and summer parties. The Golden Age Tours will be launching in February. 

Kyd Kane and Brianne Hubbard-Ross would love to continue to extend the platform of access for the incredibly talented artists in GR. With the addition of the Division Avenue Arts Collective (or The DAAC) just steps down the road from the Creston Brewery, a new era for this classic Grand Rapids neighborhood emerges with a solid focus on where it should be: on the community. 

Hubbard-Ross as an artist understands the importance of community-building and so she will be channeling her creative energy towards growing Creston Vibes’ presence within our city’s open mic community. For more info on the weekly Creston Vibes series, please visit here. 

Photos courtesy Creston Brewery and WGVU's Shelley Irwin.
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