Long Road Distillers

During the prohibition era, people used to distill their own liquor in their bathtubs.

Long Road Distillery, the recently opened craft distillery on Grand Rapids’ West Side, is offering an unusual way to remember that slice of American history.

In conjunction with the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s opening of the exhibit “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition,” the distillery will release a “bathtub gin kit” featuring a bottle of Long Road vodka, botanicals for infusing, straining cloth, funnel, instruction card and commemorative bottle with specially designed label.

“Bathtub gin” was a phrase used in reference to any inexpensive, homemade liquor, not just gin.

Of course, distilling liquor at home is still illegal. Long Road features the first four legal stills ever in the city of Grand Rapids. The kit is designed to enhance the flavor of the vodka, the kit is also in the spirit – pun intended – of the 1920s era, when Americans used ingenuity to make their own alcoholic beverages, a trait in common with modern craft distilleries and breweries.

The kit is priced at $49.99 and for sale at the distillery, 537 Leonard St. NW, with $5 from each kit sold donated to the museum to support the exhibit.

“It’s a simple botanical blend included with the kit,” said Long Road co-owner Kyle Van Strien. “It’s not just going to cover up the flavor, because I think our vodka is exceptional. But it will enhance it, make it different and unique.”

The National Constitution Center’s exhibit, which opens Sept. 26, 2015 and runs through Jan. 17, 2016, will cover the temperance movement, the Roaring ’20s and the repeal of the constitutional amendment banning alcoholic beverages. More than 100 artifacts will be featured, including flapper dresses, prohibition propaganda, Al Capone’s guilty verdict and, of course, home equipment used to brew illegal beer and moonshine.

Related: Look back: Grand Rapids embraced both sides of Prohibition

Van Strien said the idea for the tie-in came when he attended a museum fundraiser for the exhibit, and inquired whether Long Road would feature the city’s first legal still. He and Long Road partner Jon O’Connor considered making a special sugar shine or corn whiskey in conjunction with the exhibit, similar to how Founders Brewing Co. created Furniture City Stock Ale for a museum beer exhibit in 2012. But they struggled to come up with a good, unique liquor, and faced time restraints in getting legal approval for a new formula and label.

So they decided to make the product interactive, and reusable. Van Strien said different botanical blends will be sold at the distillery, adding that people could go to the spice shop and use the kit to experiment with their own flavors.

“Honestly, it was easier for us to use an existing product, then have people do the alterations at home,” Van Strien said. “It’s a fun way to commemorate the period and it’s period-specific.”

Long Road opened in June 2015 and offers vodka, gin, whisky, apple brandy and more, made on-site. The distillery offers tours, cocktails and a farm-to-table food menu.

John Serba is film critic and entertainment reporter for MLive and The Grand Rapids Press. Email him at or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Full Article Here.

Long Road Distillers

ArtPrize 2015’s new venues include a distillery, a sporting goods store and a new public space.

A total of 180 venues have signed up to participate in the seventh annual exhibition in Grand Rapids.

Some 30 first-time venues will be a part of the $500,000 competition opening Sept. 23 for the 19-day exhibition.

A total of 177 venues were on board following the close of venue registration Friday, but three more have been approved following mandatory site inspections.

“There weren’t really any surprises,” said Jaenell Ott, public relations manager for ArtPrize. “Venues that didn’t return were predominately restaurants or businesses that no longer have a downtown location.”

ArtPrize 2014 featured art in 174 restaurants, office buildings and public spaces last fall.

New venues participating for the first time in ArtPrize 2015 include Reynolds & Sons Sporting Goods, which will use its second-floor window at 12 Monroe Center to showcase art in the heart of downtown.

Long Road Distillers, a craft distillery, is located in a late 19th century building at 537 Leonard St. NW that originally was a dry goods store when it opened in the 1880s.

Lyon Square, a public space between the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and DeVos Place convention center, overlooking the Grand River, has been a well-traveled space among ArtPrize viewers since the inaugural event in 2009. In the past, it’s been a part of the Amway Grand Plaza venue. But Lyon Square will be a venue in its own right for the first time in 2015.

Three venues that weren’t a part of ArtPrize 2014, but were past participants, have returned. The three are Speak EZ, Ledyard Building and Heartside Park.

All venues are located within a 3-square mile area of downtown Grand Rapids except for Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and SiTE:LAB’s Rumsey Street project between Grandville Avenue and Century Drive.

Though 180 venues are signed up to participate, each venue must secure at least one artist’s entry in order to be a part of the event. Last year, a total of 194 venues signed up to participate but 20 had to drop out at the end of the Connections period to match artists and venues.

Artist Registration opens April 20 and continues to June 4.

Connections opens April 28 and ends June 18.

ArtPrize is shaping up to be similar in size to the past four events. The last four years have ranged from 161 venues in 2012 to 174 last year.

The inaugural ArtPrize in 2009 was the smallest with 159. The second ArtPrize in 2010 had the most with 192. – Full Story.

Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk, April 13, 2015

Long Road Distillers

The Grand Rapids School Board is guaranteed at least one new member after the November election with Jon O’Connor deciding not to seek reelection to pursue a new business venture on the city’s West Side.

Five of the board’s nine 4-year seats will be on the Nov. 4 ballot. Board president Wendy Falb, vice president Maureen Slade and Tony Baker plan to seek second terms. John Matias, who was appointed July 13, 2013 to replace now-City Commissioner Senita Lenear, will be seeking his first full term.

No one has filed yet with the city clerk’s office. The filing deadline is July 22 at 4 p.m.

This fall, O’Connor and business partner Kyle Van Strien will be educating the community about the spirits world with the planned launch of the city’s first craft distillery, Long Road Distillers, a cocktail bar and lounge under renovation at 537 Leonard St. NW.

“We feel like there is some momentum here on the West Side, and we think we can help make this neighborhood a destination place with what will be a world-class craft distillery,” said O’Connor, who owns West Michigan Appraisers and is completing his first term on the school board.

“We’ve been telling people for a long time the West Side is a cool place.”

Revitalizing the West Side neighborhood is a fitting goal for O’Connor and Van Strien, former president and vice president of the West Grand Neighborhood Association.

He said part of that revitalization effort was the reopening of Stocking Elementary this school year. O’Connor is candid about what motivated him to run for the school board – getting the neighborhood school reopened after its controversial 2010 closing and bringing on a new superintendent with the skill set to improve the district and change the culture.

“I feel like my two big ticket items are done,” said O’Connor, who said turning around a large district takes time but they’re on the right track. “Superintendent Neal’s Transformation Plan is a step in the right direction. The biggest challenge going forward is growing the enrollment.”

The challenge before him and Van Strien, project coordinator for Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and a city planning commissioner, is transforming their two-story, 8,000-square-foot space into that hip destination place. They plan to invest at least $750,000.

Van Strien said people will be able to view the craft spirits being produced by the micro-distillery. He said a lot of people don’t know the difference between a distillery that produces spirits such as vodka and whiskey and a brewery that produces beer.

Long Road Distillers will be able to produce both on site. Patrons can enjoy spirits as well as beer and wine. The cocktail bar won’t have a full restaurant, rather just appetizers and some small-plate offerings.

“To set us apart from some of the spirit brands that people know of such as Absolut and Smirnoff, we are a micro-distillery and our equipment is extremely flexible and will allow us to change the products we are distilling on almost a daily basis, if not hourly,” said Van Strien, who said they can do four runs in a day.

“From our vodka, we can make gin or an infused vodka with local blueberries or raspberries and experiment with apples, for example. Ultimately, we want to be in the business of recreating this neighborhood through investment in businesses like ours and helping others invest as well, so we can have a resurgence here.”

He said the area has largest traditional business district in the city.

The business, which will employ around 15 people initially, gets its name in part from Leonard being a long road, as well as their commitment to not taking short cuts with creating spirits.

O’Connor said he thinks their business complements the Mitten Brewing Company, the microbrewery located next door in the historic Grand Rapids firehouse.

He said he wants to see a high level of market synergy on the street, in which Individual businesses are working together to be more successful and to spur that revitalization.

Mlive – Full Story

Monica Scott, May 29, 2014

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