Real estate firm uses restaurant to support charity

A restaurant is a place to sit and enjoy a good meal with good company.

It’s also an engine for charity, if you think the way Third Coast Development does.

About four years ago, Third Coast, a Grand Rapids-based commercial real estate development firm headquartered at 168 Louis Campau Promenade NW, held a grand opening for its own restaurant. Since then, El Barrio, a Tex-Mex style grill at 545 Michigan St. NE, has become known as a charity driver. The restaurant takes up a 4,400-square-foot space inside Third Coast’s Mid Towne Village development, according to Morgan Fedewa, associate at Clark Communications.

“Over the last four years, El Barrio has helped more than 27 organizations raise funds through events at the restaurant, providing cash donations or helping with food drives,” she said.

“Overall, El Barrio has donated roughly $50,000 to local organizations, including the American Legion, Gilda's Club and Midtown Neighborhood Association.”

The restaurant was born out of the neighborhood’s need to create a space for families to gather, said Dave Levitt, principal at Third Coast. Although owned by Third Coast, El Barrio is managed by Grand Rapids-based Restaurant Partners Inc., which also runs Bagel Beanery, Grand Coney, Sundance Grill and Bar, and The Omelette Shop, Levitt said.

“When we opened the restaurant, obviously we were looking to put a business in our building, but we’ve always been quietly philanthropic, and that’s one of the things we’ve been doing all along at the restaurant,” he said.

“What separates us from a chain, particularly a national or local chain, is that’s our spot. We’re fully invested there and we want the community to see us in that.”

Levitt said, as for now, he and his team are satisfied with keeping the restaurant where it is as part of a “great neighborhood adjunct to downtown.”

“I don’t think we’re going to open another El Barrio,” he said. “We’re open to other restaurant options, but our main focus is real estate development.”

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