Grand Rapids’ first “grain to glass” craft distillery will open its doors this week.
After a series of equipment and regulatory delays hampered its scheduled fall 2014 opening, Long Road Distillers LLC plans to pour its first round to a public crowd on Thursday, May 28 and hold its grand opening the following week.
The new distillery located at 537 Leonard Street NW in Grand Rapids’ west side neighborhood will initially offer its flagship gin, red winter wheat vodka and white whisky for its opening. However, the company plans to quickly begin barrel-aging its whiskey and rolling out new products, said Kyle Van Strien, a partner in Long Road with Jon O’Connor.
“The next step is to find our groove,” Van Strien said. “Now that we’ve really hustled and pushed our production team to this point, we need to find our rhythm and get to where we have a regular production schedule.”
Long Road is currently operating staggered shifts and hopes to expand to two full production shifts in the coming weeks.
Before it even opened, the distillery doubled its production capacity to approximately 10,000 cases – or 23,775 gallons – of spirits per year by acquiring a second still from Louisville, Ky.-based Vendome Copper and Brass Works Inc. to complement its initial 500-liter still from German-based manufacturer Müller GmbH.
The distillery plans to begin distributing its spirits around West Michigan by the end of the summer, Van Strien said.
The distillery seats 80 customers, but O’Connor and Van Strien plan to open additional seating and bar space on the second floor of the facility by this fall that will boost capacity to 180 people.
Long Road invested approximately $750,000 into its facility, according to a previous report by MiBiz. The company partnered with Willink Construction Inc. as the general contractor for the project, which was designed by The Design Forum Inc. MJW Consulting LLC provided engineering services for the project.
While both O’Connor and Van Strien are confident in their distillery’s progress and opening, the partners note that the biggest challenge came from waiting for all of the equipment, permits and licensing to be finalized. In particular, Long Road saw considerable delays from local city officials because it was the first to be established in Grand Rapids. MiBiz first broke news of Van Strien and O’Connor’s plans in March 2014.
“Getting people up to speed about the workings and inner operations that happen at a place like ours is a learning curve for us, but there’s also a learning curve for the local officials,” O’Connor said. “(T)hat hindered some of our progress.”
Going forward, the company plans to improve its production and service operations as well as continue to invest in Grand Rapids’ west side neighborhood.
“We plan to continue to reinvest in the neighborhood in a way that’s going to help it transition into the neighborhood we know it can be,” O’Connor said. “Kyle and I believe in this neighborhood and we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t.”
John Wiegand, May 27, 2015