Restaurant defies norm and opens amid COVID-19

Walker’s — An American Brasserie honors legacy of one of Muskegon’s leading philanthropists.
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Walker’s — An American Brasserie, which features three separate dining areas, opened last month in Muskegon. Courtesy Walker's - An American Brasserie

While some restaurants have been forced to permanently close their doors because of COVID-19, Parkland Properties of Michigan opened its new restaurant in downtown Muskegon called Walker’s — An American Brasserie, which is named in honor of Louis Carlisle Walker, philanthropist and co-founder of the Shaw-Walker Furniture Company, now The Watermark Center in Muskegon.

Jonathan Rooks, president of Parkland Properties of Michigan, said the success of another Parkland eatery, Lake House Waterfront Grille on the marina in Muskegon, after some pandemic-related restrictions were lifted prompted the decision.

Walker’s, 939 Third St., opened last month.

“We had to stall the opening of Walker’s — An American Brasserie, which we had been working toward for over a year now,” he said. “Once we reopened the Lake House and became fully operational, we realized that we are getting more revenue than we have ever gotten before because we have been able to spread out into our banquet facility. Since business is good at the Lake House, we decided — because it is setting some records with numbers — we would go ahead and start with The Foundation, which is a casual and fun environment. It includes an outdoor patio area and it is just fun for anyone who is looking to relax with a friendly crowd and enjoy a cocktail with some music.”

The 10,000-square-foot restaurant has two other dining areas in addition to The Foundation called the Private Dining Room and the American Brasserie.

The private dining area, once the COVID restrictions are lifted, will host gatherings for over 20 people. The brasserie has a finer dining concept with wood features that surround a large tile fireplace. Guests will be able to choose between a variety of locally sourced ingredients and the restaurant’s extensive wine list.

Although the 200-seat restaurant has been limited to 50% capacity, per Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order, Rooks said there has been a steady flow of guests who fill the brasserie’s available seating.

Before its opening, Parkland Properties renovated the building, which was formerly the Third Street Grille.

“We completely gutted the interior and we spent about $1.5 million on improvements and a new bar, new tiles, new walls, new ceilings, all new lighting, all new furniture, new interior glass walls,” Rooks said. “It was like building a new building.”

In addition to the renovations, Rooks said the name was changed to Walker’s because L.C. Walker Arena, which has hosted sports games and concerts, was recently renamed Mercy Health Arena. 

“This decision was met with both support and some resistance from people that wanted to see the arena remain as the L.C. Walker Arena,” he said. “At the time of the decision, we were in the early stages of developing our restaurant concept. We knew we wanted to launch a concept that would serve as a community center, appeal to a wide variety of people, and tell the story of Muskegon. We were looking to somehow encompass both an elevated experience for those that are looking for a little more, but also a lively, energetic, casual feel for those looking to simply relax.”

Rooks said the timing seemed right to commemorate L.C. Walker because he not only pushed the Muskegon area forward, but also championed the idea of leisure and fun being a necessary part of life.

“It is high time we awoke to the fact that leisure is an honest-to-goodness product,” Walker said. “It is not mere idleness. Leisure forms the punctuation marks of an occupied existence. It is the sauce of life.”

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