The longtime Eastown restaurant will reopen in December with a new theme and some new additions, including a bar. Courtesy Eric Chaitin
For more than 35 years, Brandywine was a Grand Rapids breakfast staple in Eastown.
Last month, the restaurant closed with plans to reopen in December as a new concept, still staffed by the same people. Earlier this year, Eric Chaitin purchased the restaurant and observed how the business functioned for approximately six months.
As he realized the restaurant’s status in the community, he still felt there was a way to improve on the business.
“We learned the community loves it, the history of it, the comfort of it,” Chaitin said. “As business people, we felt like they did a wonderful job of finding a niche that did well in the marketplace, but it hasn’t been updated. No matter how great a concept is, you have to constantly reinvent the concept.
“They hadn’t brought the concept along with the growth of the city or Eastown.”
Chaitin said the core of Brandywine will remain: the extended breakfast service and much of the staff. Aside from those aspects, however, much will be changed, including the look of the restaurant — inside and out.
“We decided we have to take what they were doing well and put it in a box and redefine the space,” Chaitin said. The space will include stripping down to the brick and restoring the tin ceiling, Chaitin said.
The new concept will take an idea popular across the country, according to Chaitin, and turn the building into a “high-end diner with a little ethnic flair.” Chaitin pointed to Chicago’s Little Goat, which he said uses Asian infusion in its dishes.
Brandywine’s concept will merge the traditional diner with an Eastern European and Jewish deli, Chaitin said. The menu will remain breakfast-centric and much the same, with the addition of sandwiches and other diner-type foods and a shift toward scratch cooking, Chaitin said.
The new restaurant also will include a bar, an amenity Brandywine lacked.
The bar will have an alcohol tilt, with mimosas and Bloody Mary’s, but it also will be used for Brown Cows, root beer floats, fresh-squeezed juices and other beverage creations, Chaitin said.
“We believe in family restaurant first and a bar as a piece of it,” he said. “It will never be a hip bar until late night, but just add a piece to the diner side.”
Chaitin has worked in the food industry for nearly 30 years. He started his career in Chicago, first as a private chef and then in several restaurant groups before coming to Grand Rapids as executive chef of Roses on Reeds Lake. In 2004, he began work as executive chef of Watermark Country Club.
In 2014, he purchased Holland’s Ottawa Beach Inn and subsequently has purchased Ottawa Beach Pizza Co., Saugatuck’s Mermaid Bar & Grill and Brandywine.
He said the aspect he loves most about the food industry is its ability to please customers immediately, as opposed to the anxiety-inducing tendencies of jobs such as doctors and mechanics.
He said he wants to continue to grow his ability to please customers by continuing to grow his company and providing his employees with opportunities to move up in their careers. Chaitin said Brandywine employees were provided the opportunity to work at his other restaurants he owns while Brandywine is closed and most will return when it reopens.
“I enjoy the business and trying to employ more people,” he said. “What we did going from one restaurant to two to three to four, it was the only way to give employees more opportunity.”
Along with giving his employees more opportunities, Chaitin hopes to provide Eastown, and greater Grand Rapids, with a new restaurant they can frequent and call their community hub. Chaitin said keeping the people, or the community, the same is important while the rest of the restaurant receives an update.
“As a businessman, it makes sense, but as a human, it makes more sense,” Chaitin said of keeping employees. “We’re trying to be good people, and a byproduct of that, we believe, is the way to be highly profitable.
“When we talk about Eastown and the community, it’s about what’s in the four walls, not the actual four walls.”