Long Road Distillers

A local distillery has opened up an addition.

Long Road Distillers just opened its upstairs, The Rickhouse at Long Road, at 537 Leonard St. NW.

Event space

The space holds 160 people and is available for special events and general overflow on the weekends.

The space rents for $100 an hour for a three-hour minimum and a $500 food-and-drink minimum on weekends. The weekday rate is considerably cheaper, said Kyle Van Strien, co-founder, Long Road Distillers.

“We want people to use it, but we do anticipate to raise it as we see demand,” Van Strien said.

Cocktail classes

Long Road Distillers will use the space to host its first cocktail class next Tuesday.

The class is the first of many events Long Road expects to host in the space.

Cocktail classes will be an ongoing series for the distillery, said Jon O’Connor, co-founder, Long Road Distillers.

“There’s a heightened awareness in the country about cocktails, and it’s just starting to make its way to Grand Rapids,” O’Connor said. “We’re hoping to be a part of that transformation.”

While the first class will be a general overview of the history of distillation and cocktails, future classes will have a specific focus on different cocktails.

The class on Tuesday will be hands-on, as students will taste every aspect of the cocktails, from simple syrup and sugar to bitters and the spirits.

“This class will be history and structure, techniques,” Van Strien said. “We use many methods to craft cocktails and how to make better drinks at home. It will also require lots of tasting.”

Grand Rapids Business Journal, Pat Evans

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Long Road Distillers

Distillery gains approval for full kitchen, rooftop deck and expanded production area.

The city’s first distillery has set its sights on some big expansion projects.

Long Road Distillers went in front of the Grand Rapids Planning Commission last week seeking approval for three projects, all of which gained unanimous approval.

The planned expansions include a full kitchen, a rooftop deck and an expanded production area.

Owners Kyle Van Strien and Jon O’Connor have recognized the need for expansion since prior to opening earlier this year but mulled the details for the past sixth months before heading to the city’s planning panel.

Van Strien, who is also a member of the planning commission, recused himself from the meeting.

“We knew the space we have would never be quite sufficient if everything went as we planned,” O’Connor said. “As we continue to grow after having our second still installed, it increased our potential capacity. And to fully optimize our equipment, expanding is necessitated.”

Enlargement of the production space is crucial if Long Road is to max out its capabilities and hit the distribution market it desires. Van Strien said he expects the distillery’s products to begin showing up on store and bar shelves within the next two months.

Current production space is cramped with equipment as well as with full and empty bottles, barrels, grain and fermenting liquid.

An addition would free up some elbowroom, Van Strien said.

Adding on to the back of the building would take up three of the business’s parking spots, but would double the footprint of the current production space with an additional 1,200 square feet.

“We’re hamstrung in how much we can do. It’s tight,” Van Strien said. “(An expansion) would enable us to store both finished and product in process, as well as potentially expand fermentation capabilities so we can fully optimize our equipment.”

Also in the works is a full kitchen. Currently, Long Road utilizes a partial kitchen to serve mostly small dishes. The owners said the kitchen is limited and restricts potential business during lunch and dinner times.

The proposed kitchen would be constructed in the back portion of a building at 539 Leonard St. NW, which also is owned by the distillery’s investment group and currently is occupied by Chicago Style Gyro. The gyro restaurant will stay in the building by consolidating its storage.

The project will add 1,200 square feet of kitchen space with cook-tops, hoods, walk-in coolers, dry storage and a dish-washing area.

A proposed rooftop deck will seat 60 people and have limited hours, O’Connor said. In the proposal, Long Road notes the deck is in line with recent projects by neighbors Mitten Brewing Co. and Two Scotts Barbecue.

Long Road expects its upstairs overflow seating area and event space to be finished by the start of ArtPrize next month and likely will host live music during the annual art competition.

O’Connor said because of the business’s alcohol use, any change must go in front of the planning commission. Instead of getting the projects approved one at a time, they sought to move them all through at once.

Van Strien said the projects will cost “a lot of money,” but the exact amount is an unknown at this point. He also said the projects aren’t imminent, and this is just a proactive move on the company’s part. The expansions will not be concurrent, and the first one won’t start until next spring. O’Connor said that’s because most West Michigan contractors are booked through the end of the year.

“Rather than go back multiple times, we thought we’d get it all done at once so, as funds become available, we can do them,” he said.

– Pat Evans, Grand Rapids Business Journal, August 14, 2015

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Long Road Distillers

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

Full Story Here.

Long Road Distillers

Entrepreneurs Kyle Van Strien and Jon O’Connor have some spirited plans to bring Grand Rapids its first neighborhood distillery and tasting room.

The pair and a silent partner purchased an 8,000-square-foot building at 537 Leonard St. NW on the corner of Leonard and Quarry St. NW, and have begun the process of converting it into Long Road Distillers, LLC, a full-on spirits distillery with customer amenities.

First, two upstairs apartments and a main level clothing store must be vacated, according to federal law. The building must be completely production-ready and a bond in place before the final licenses can be procured.

“We will be doing production onsite in about 2,500 to 3,000 square feet for production and storage,” Van Strien says. “We’ll serve cocktails and have the spirits tasting room in the front, with overflow seating upstairs. We’ll produce everything onsite. We want to take the microbrewery model and apply it to the distillery, and have people come and hang out and learn about how we source and make the products.”

O’Connor, a real estate broker and appraiser with West Michigan Appraisers, and Van Strien, project coordinator for Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, will be the head distillers and will work at the business full-time once everything is in place.

“Our goal is to source as much of our inputs from Michigan as possible; our vodka will have as much grain from West Michigan as possible,” O’Connor says. “We’ll start with vodka, gin, a flavored vodka, possibly a rum that will be sourced outside Michigan for the cane sugar, and an un-aged whiskey. We’ll grow into producing aged whiskey and rye, which take years to age. Smaller companies have the ability to push the envelope with experimentation and work with fruit, grains, and botanicals to provide flavor and sources for our products.”

No opening date has been set, but the guys are shooting for a fall 2014 opening, if the licensing and build-out processes fall into place.

Van Strien and O’Connor are good friends with Max Trierweiler and Chris Andrus, who own Mitten Brewing just across Quarry St. Mitten Brewing aims to triple its beer production by expanding into a second building on the same corner. Read the story here.

“We can’t sell their product, they can’t sell ours (because of licensing restrictions),” Van Strien says. “But we’re definitely excited about partnering with them and catalyzing economic development in the area. There’s a lot of new energy developing right there on that corner.”

Long Road Distillers goes before the Grand Rapids Planning Commission for a special land use permit on March 27.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Rapid Growth Media – Full Article
March 13, 2014

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