While Long Road Distillers LLC just opened a little more than two months ago, the maker of craft spirits already plans to expand in Grand Rapids’ west side neighborhood.
The company will go before the Grand Rapids Planning Commission on Thursday, Aug. 13 with a special land use request to add 1,200 square feet to double its production space at 537 Leonard St. NW, as well as expand its kitchen.
For the craft distillery, the added production space will help it make the transition into producing enough product to start distributing its spirits, said co-founder Kyle Van Strien.
“This is making sure we’re satisfying the needs we have now and in the near future for production,” he said. “We just continue to grow. We’re going to two shifts (this) week for our production team just to meet demand. We’ve met demand from the front of the house … but as we go to distribution in a month and a half, we need to have enough room.
“With the amount of storage that we have and our production space, it can get tight. We hope to alleviate some of the strain on our production team.”
Demand from Long Road’s pub thus far has “exceeded our expectations,” Van Strien said. While the company expected to use 70,000 to 80,000 pounds of wheat in its first year as part of the distilling process, it used that much in its first three months of production.
“We’ve seen the demand in the front of the house,” he said. “To this point, we’ve been producing to meet demand, not for the long-term.”
The company has added fermenters to help the production crew keep up, and the second shift should also make a difference, Van Strien said.
The company plans to launch distribution with three spirits in the next month and a half.
“We probably could have had the supply to go into distribution this month or last month, but we don’t want to limp into this. We want to run full-steam into this distribution thing,” Van Strien said.
Long Road is also asking the city to allow it to add a rooftop deck to the neighboring building at 539 Leonard St. NW. The affiliated River Bed Investors LLC owns both buildings, according to county records.
Meanwhile, more kitchen space will allow the distillery to grow its food offerings and offer a “cohesive” menu, Van Strien said.
“Our menu is focused and great, but we want to become a place people go for dinner and an appetizer,” he said. “With an expanded kitchen, we can really blow up our menu with a full line of great food.”
As for the theme of the expanded menu, “we’re still coming up with what that might be,” Van Strien added. “We want it to be cohesive and fit with our cocktail program.”
The added kitchen capacity also will allow Long Road to use its soon-to-be-completed upstairs space for events and other special uses, he said. Adding the upstairs and the rooftop deck will expand the capacity to around 260 people, Van Strien said.
Long Road’s current street-level space seats 80 people.
The Grand Rapids-based distillery’s expansion comes during a period of explosive growth for spirits producers. The number of small distillers grew from 92 in 2010 to more than 700 last year, according to data from the Distilled Spirits Council.
The Michigan Craft Distillers Association said nearly 40 distilleries were in operation in the state as of last year, enough for the state to rank third in the nation for the number of producers.
– Joe Boomgaard, MiBiz, August 9, 2015