CADILLAC — A Grand Rapids-based liquor distillery is in the process of opening their newest location in Cadillac.
Long Road Distillers has entered into a lease agreement to use the space at 412 S. Mitchell St., which is the site of the former Better Bodies Health and Fitness Center.
Kyle VanStrien, who co-owns Long Road Distillers with business partner Jon O'Connor, told the Cadillac News that they're hoping to be open by June 15, although that will be contingent largely on how long it takes the Liquor Control Commission to process their license application to sell spirits at the site.
In the meantime, VanStrien said "big changes" are in store for the site over the next couple of weeks, as crews get the building ready for customers.
With locations currently in Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and one in the works for Charlevoix, VanStrien said Cadillac will be their fourth site.
The business formed six years ago with the distillery in Grand Rapids, which focused on producing a variety of spirits, including vodka, gin, whiskey, brandy and others. Today, they produce around two-dozen different products.
VanStrien said they specialize in producing spirits using ingredients sourced solely from Michigan farms. Coincidently, their devotion to using Michigan-based ingredients led them to choosing Cadillac for their newest location.
VanStrien and other staff members from Long Road Distillers regularly travel to Beaver Island to hand pick juniper leaves for one of their gins — the aptly named "Michigin."
"Cadillac has been a stop along the way," VanStrien said. "We're really familiar with the area."
Based on the success that similar types of businesses have had in the area, including craft beer brewers, VanStrien said he believes their unique product line will be well received in Cadillac.
Unlike their other locations, which feature full restaurants and bars, VanStrien said the Cadillac location will be more "casual," focusing on selling products, merchandise and providing taste samples of their drinks, including their "craft cocktails."
"It will be a fun, vibrant atmosphere," VanStrien said.
There will be a few love seats, couches and tables set up in the main building, along with picnic tables outside.
Although they won't have a full restaurant, VanStrien said vendors will be selling food items outside from large cargo containers.
In addition, VanStrien said they will be taking advantage of the building's size (with capacity for up to 200 people), to hold wedding receptions, corporate events and other gatherings.
To help them run the bar and event planning aspects of the business, VanStrien said they've brought in hospitality industry professionals Susan Scoby and Ricky Velez, a husband-and-wife team from Chicago who now live in Cadillac.
VanStrien said Scoby is currently in the process of contacting food vendors who may be interested in setting up shop next to Long Road Distillers.
It's been quite a journey from Better Bodies Health and Fitness Center to Long Road Distillers.
Property owner Robb Munger purchased the condemned Better Bodies building in 2017 and since that time has invested around $500,000 on the property.
Munger, who had originally planned to open some combination of coffee house/brewery/distillery/event center at the location on his own, eventually came to the conclusion that he couldn't devote the time necessary to open such a business himself, especially a business that is relatively foreign to him (his experience is primarily in real estate).
That's when he started reaching out to businesses at random, asking if they'd be interested in leasing the building. When he reached out to Long Road Distillers, they immediately jumped on the opportunity, Munger said.
From now until opening day, VanStrien said they'll be looking to hire bartenders and servers to work at the Cadillac location. Interested candidates should email firstname.lastname@example.org with resume and cover letter. They can also apply at longroaddistillers.com/contact/employment.
Anyone interested in learning more about Long Road Distillers can visit their website at longroaddistillers.com.