Grand Rapids-based Long Road Distillers would be the first distillery in Grand Haven. The Grand Haven City Council, having reviewed proposals from numerous businesses, debated Monday whether to give the spot to the distillery, or to local coffee shop Aldea Coffee.
Aldea Coffee owner Andrew Boyd said Thursday that he and co-owner Jeremy Miller have decided to support Long Road for the depot.
Both companies submitted proposals for occupying the depot, saying their brands and products are a natural fit for the historic venue.
Mayor Geri McCaleb and Councilman Dennis Scott on Monday voiced their preference for a coffee shop.
“Coffee is kind of the universal thing,” the mayor said. “It’s good all times, every time. I think there is definitely a place for (Long Road Distillers) in Grand Haven, I just don’t think the depot is the place.”
Councilman Josh Brugger argued that Long Road is the best option for the site, as the owners have restored historic buildings for their two current locations in Grand Rapids and Boyne City.
“The historic nature of the depot lends itself so well to some refined, high-quality establishment such as the distillery and the folks at Long Road,” Brugger said.
Councilman Mike Fritz called the distillery a “win-win,” adding it could help bring millennials downtown.
Long Road co-founders Jon O’Connor and Kyle Van Strein attended Monday’s meeting and shared their vision for the site.
The founders have been searching for a property in Grand Haven for the past two years, according to O’Connor, as they aim for a year-round business on the Lakeshore. The depot is their first choice due to its historic nature, he said, but if the site is not offered to his business, they will keep looking for the right place in Grand Haven.
O’Connor said the depot site would be a hybrid of Long Road’s flagship in Grand Rapids and its small tasting room in Boyne City. Grand Haven’s Long Road would offer a tasting room, cocktail bar and limited-item menu with small plates that could be prepared on site. Production will remain at the Grand Rapids location, where meats and breads are made in-house.
The distilling operation would also remain in Grand Rapids, O’Connor said.
Long Road would also offer catering, as it does at its existing locations. These establishments are not open past midnight, O’Connor said.
The Grand Armory is a great home for Aldea Coffee, Boyd said, and while the depot’s historic nature is appealing, maintaining existing community ties is important.
“You have people from multiple generations coming in, and at some point they’ve interacted with the Armory and have a story about it,” he said. “We’re always seeking something like that: stories prior to our story.”
Aldea offers its Honduras-sourced coffee in addition to non-coffee beverages and pastries.
The city has in recent months reviewed plans for upgrades to the depot building, which could entail new windows and doors. The interior has undergone renovations and features a flex space for public uses and the fixed vendor space, which is about 1,000 square feet.
“We are committed to investing heavily in restoration of the building while maintaining character both inside and out,” O’Connor said.
Councilman Bob Monetza said he was concerned for how an alcohol-serving business would interact with the public aspect of the building, but over the course of the meeting said he was leaning toward supporting the distillery.
The vendor will enter a 20-month agreement, with the option to continue operating at the location long-term.
City Manager Pat McGinnis said he will bring a vote on a potential tenant to the Council at its March 4 meeting.