Nineteen new, expanded or relocated businesses are now part of the much-anticipated Indoor Market Hall at Downtown Market that opened Labor Day and is the focus of two “official” Grand Action receptions this week.
“From a business perspective, this is entrepreneurship in action,” said Dick DeVos, one of the co-chairs of Grand Action, the storied organization of business leaders who have pooled private money with public sector funds and counts among its successes Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place — and now Downtown Market.
“This is the kind of entrepreneurship that made Grand Rapids what it is. These are the entrepreneurs of tomorrow, the business startups of tomorrow. Who knows where some of these businesses can start to show up and where they can expand to and what they can do. It’s very exciting to continue that cycle of entrepreneurship in our community.”
Business stall owners say they are thrilled and excited to show off their wide array of products, many using local ingredients, and to watch their businesses flourish.
“We are really looking forward to collaboration with the other vendors,” said Miriam Owsley, of Grocer’s Daughter Chocolates. “Across the way we have Thornburg and Co. and they have great preserves that we want to put in some of our vegan truffles. Old World Olive Press has a lot of cool, flavored olive oils that you can make oil ganache with, which is a really great vegan option or for people who are trying to cut down on fat from the cream. So there are tons of opportunities for collaboration and great flavors.”
This is Grocer’s Daughter’s second location. The business has been operating for nine years in Empire in northern Michigan.
Thornburg and Co. is another expanding business, but this is its first retail location.
“We started our company three years ago,” co-founder Ryan Thornburg said. “We are basically a fruit company. We utilize West Michigan fruit and we make a line of all-natural fruit preserves, whiskey-barrel-aged maple syrup with Michigan maple syrup. We have varietal honeys (and) we also make granola.
“We are from St. Joseph/Benton Harbor. … This was our first retail opportunity; most of what we do is wholesale.”
Thornburg said being part of Downtown Market is another way for the business to work with small family farms and to continue to support the West Michigan area.
Aperitivo Wine and Cheese Bar is a new business, owned by Kate Leeder and Amy Ruis, who also owns Art of the Table.
“Aperitivo is a cheese, wine, beer and charcuterie shop, with a little bit of everything to go with it,” said Leeder. “You can get everything you need for a cheese platter, or a nice party tray for your house. We also have a cheese, wine, beer and charcuterie bar in the back.
“We have 15 seats and some seating outside where we are pouring wines by the glass, doing cheese plates, meat plates, a grilled cheese of the day, and great little snack things that are perfect with a glass of wine.”
Fish Lads also is a new business and will offer fresh seafood from the East and West coasts as well as from the depths of Lake Superior.
“Most of the stuff that we get that is not local, it is all air-freighted in, so we have trucks that go pick up fish in Chicago. We also have trucks that pick up fish locally here in Grand Rapids,” said Jeffrey Butzow, owner, on how the business will operate.
Downtown Market and its year-round Indoor Market Hall are expected to be a destination point for business and leisure travelers.
“I think you will get some leisure visitors throughout the region that will want to stop and enjoy the market, as well as be an added amenity for convention groups who are looking for something to do on their off nights,” said Doug Small, Experience Grand Rapids executive director.
“One of our primary brand pillars is the whole food scene and the farm-to-fork scene, and I think this is the best of all of that. It’s really one of those things that … delivers on a promise. So when we are out marketing this great food scene in Grand Rapids, it certainly means our restaurants and pubs, but you have it all right here in one location in the market, so it helps deliver that brand if you will.”
DeVos noted that 20 years ago when Grand Action first started proposing projects to improve the downtown, it was met with a lot of skepticism, with many saying it was crazy or impossible.
“When we started talking about an arena in Grand Rapids 20 years ago, that was the category that most people put us in, but the arena stands, the convention center stands, some other things that we’ve been able to be involved with are standing and standing proudly as we continue to evolve this tremendous community,” DeVos said.
He also noted that, following the announcement of the downtown market project, supporters of the project quickly overwhelmed the skeptics.
“This project, which is quite fascinating, really, because of the size and scale of it — it’s one of the smaller ones that Grand Action has been involved with — has received more buzz online, more favorable response in the social network space than anything that we have ever done,” he said.
There are still five indoor vendor stall openings, as well as space for a restaurant and a brewery still to be filled.
Downtown Market Indoor Hall vendors:
- Aperitivo Wine & Cheese Bar: cheeses, wine, beer and charcuterie, with a 15-seat bar and outdoor seating available to patrons.
- City Produce: organic and seasonal produce.
- Crescent Street Floral: creative displays of fresh seasonal flowers that can be selected by the stem or designed by an in-house floral artist.
- Dorothy & Tony’s Gourmet Kettle Corn: kettle corn, caramel corn, cheese corn, Chicago style and other seasonal flavors.
- Field & Fire Bakery: organic breads, flatbreads, pizzas and pastries using locally sourced ingredients.
- Fish Lads: up to 40 varieties of fresh seafood from the West Coast, East Coast and Lake Superior daily.
- Grocer’s Daughter Chocolates: artisan, handmade chocolates and hand-dipped truffles.
- Love’s Ice Cream: hand-crafted ice cream created from local, organic, grass-grazed dairy, and organic non-dairy ice cream for the vegan or lactose-intolerant ice cream lover.
- Malamiah Juice Bar: fresh juices and smoothies with a focus on promoting health and community wellness.
- Making Thyme Kitchen: ready-to-cook frozen and fresh meals, including beef peanut satay, Sicilian chicken with pine nuts and raisins, and mushroom nut loaf with marinara.
- Miss Maddie’s Pasta & Sauces: gourmet pasta sauces, butters and gourmet deli salads.
- Montello Meat Market: Michigan-raised, dry-aged beef, and specializing in hand-stuffed, original recipe brats and sausages, as well as free-range chicken and locally raised pork, lamb and veal.
- Old World Olive Press: a unique array of pure, extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars from around the world.
- Rak Thai: fresh “Thai fusion” entrees — taking traditional Thai recipes and sauces and incorporating elements of Chinese and Japanese cuisine.
- Simpatico Coffee: coffee roaster focused on ethical coffee production that uses 100 percent Arabica coffee beans directly from farmers in the rural state of Oaxaca.
- Spice Merchants: the finest spices, blends and teas.
- Sweetie-licious Pie Pantry: pies, cupcakes, cakes, cookies, muffins, bars and other baked goods.
- Tacos El Cunado: tacos, enchiladas, fajitas and quesadillas as well as other Latin American-inspired street food.
- Thornburg & Co. Preserves: fruit-belt preserves, syrup, honey and granola using produce from Southwest Michigan.