Subscribe About Us Advertise Newsstands Contact Us Jobs
 
  < home< inside this month< online feature archive
 
   
 

“I got interested in our food supply, sold my web development business and went to culinary school. Never in my life could I have guessed this would be the path I took.” — Chris McKellar

GR’s own food network
Downtown Market has been eagerly anticipated by local foodies, and it’s finally becoming a reality.

By Dana Blinder
Photography by Adam Bird

The brick-and-glass building at 435 Ionia Ave. SW is still a mystery to many. It’s been a long process to get Downtown Market up and running, but the 51,305-square-foot space will open later this summer with more than 20 vendors, a farm-to-table restaurant and a local brewery.

The year-round market will provide plenty of high-end culinary explorations, said David Tilley, marketing manager. “Before signing indoor vendors, we took trips to other markets to gather ideas for what makes a market successful.”

Tilley said organizers put a lot of thought into what Grand Rapids already has and what the area is lacking. “There were some businesses we sought out — people who were staples in the West Michigan community,” he said.

Downtown Market will be a food network to “get people excited about what West Michigan has to offer,” Tilley added. “The market will be a place to rethink food, try new things and get to know new places.”.

Here’s a sampling of some of the vendors who will be moving in:.

Love’s Ice Cream
lovesicecream.com
An artisan ice cream shop owner was never what Chris McKellar sought to become, but Downtown Market changed that.

“I’m a musician, a designer, a web developer and a marketing director turned chef,” he said. “I got interested in our food supply, sold my web development business and went to culinary school. Never in my life could I have guessed this would be the path I took.”

That interest in the food supply means Love’s Ice Cream is not your average ice cream shop.

“Most of what we offer will be certified organic if not the safest option available,” McKellar said. “We have a strong commitment to offer vegan and non-dairy options, too.”

His products wouldn’t be possible without the support of local farms and the new market.

“Our milk is from grass-pastured cows at Grassfield Farm in Coopersville, less than 20 miles away from the market,” he said.

“I would never have opened a freestanding shop outside of the market. To have the opportunity to dwell among like-minded individuals passionate about good ingredients and processes was very attractive to me.”

Montello Meat Market
montellomeatmarket.com
Good food is a family affair for the Montello Meat Market crew.


“The philosophy of both the Downtown Market and Montello Meat Market is very similar in that we provide local products to the local community, helping to develop the local economy.” — Hayley Larson

Shown left to right: Siblings Grace, Sam and Hayley Larson all work in their family’s meat market.

Tina and Tony Larson have owned the Holland Old World butcher shop for the last 10 years, with kids Sam, Hayley and Grace lending a hand. They’ve decided to make Downtown Market their new home base and are planning a meat delivery truck concept for the lakeshore.

“The philosophy of both the Downtown Market and Montello Meat Market is very similar in that we provide local products to the local community, helping to develop the local economy,” said Hayley Larson, who is general manager.

The family-owned market focuses on locally sourced and hand-cut meat including beef, pork, lamb and veal, Larson said.

“We hang and dry-age our beef for a minimum of 21 days, improving flavors and tenderness naturally. Nothing from Montello is pumped with solutions, fillers, dyes, MSG or preservatives.”

Beyond the butchery, Montello’s various flavors and blends take brats and sausages from standard to out of this world. “We offer over 20 flavors of hand-stuffed brats and sausages from Tony’s Original to Cherry Pecan.”

Aperitivo
facebook.com/pages/Aperitivo-Grand-Rapids
Kate Leeder worked the Chicago fine dining scene as a sous chef before embracing her true love — stinky cheeses. When she made her way to Grand Rapids in 2006, Art of the Table provided just the place for her.

 

“From burrata — an oozy mozzarella-style cheese — to Michigan-made goat cheese to go with your grilled zucchini, we’ll cover the spectrum.” — Kate Leeder

Now, with help from Art of the Table’s Amy Ruis, she’s taking her cheese expertise to Downtown Market.
The new shop, Aperitivo, will house everything from grab-and-go cheeses to charcuterie, chutneys, wine, beer and more.

“We’ll have all the sides you need to throw an awesome cocktail hour or cheese course,” Leeder said.

In addition, Aperitivo hopes to offer such classes as a basic Cheese 101 course or full-fledged cheese tasting classes for adventurous palettes.

“We’ll have some local products and some obscure cheeses, as well,” Leeder said. “From burrata — an oozy mozzarella-style cheese — to Michigan-made goat cheese to go with your grilled zucchini, we’ll cover the spectrum.”

Leeder said she wants Aperitivo’s vibe to be warm and welcoming, a place “where you can have a conversation with your cheese monger and explore new things without it being scary.”


“It’s great that the market can be a one-stop shop for people to get everything they need for a dinner in or entertaining — from meat and wine to spices and desserts.” — Lisa Freeman

Spice Merchants
spicemerchants.biz
What’s a market full of meats and vegetables without the right seasonings?

Lisa Freeman, owner of Saugatuck-based Spice Merchants, has this base well covered.

Her stores sell a wide selection of fresh spices, herbs, seasonings, rubs and specialty salts. And she believes her products will “marry well” with other products at Downtown Market.

“It’s great that the market can be a one-stop shop for people to get everything they need for a dinner in or entertaining — from meat and wine to spices and desserts.”

When she opened her first store in 2003, Freeman said she set out to provide healthy products to customers.

“I really wanted to stay away from the unpronounceable ingredients you see on the back of most spice jars,” she said. “Our spices are all gluten free. We use sea salt and no artificial colors or MSG.”

One of her best sellers is black truffle sea salt. “It’s phenomenal on everything.”

Freeman said Downtown Market will be her sixth location in Michigan.

In addition to spices and seasonings, Spice Merchants carries about 130 kinds of loose-leaf teas.

“There really is something for everyone,” she said.

 

“Our bakery will feature a wood-fired oven churning out crusty flavorful breads, savory morning pastries, and thin crust pizzas and flatbreads.” — Shelby Kibler

Field & Fire
fieldandfire.com
If you’ve spent any time in Ann Arbor, you’re probably familiar with the famous Zingerman’s Deli. And if you’re familiar with the famous Zingerman’s Deli, no doubt news about Field & Fire’s move to the market has you jumping for joy.

After 11 years, Shelby Kibler is leaving his role as manager, baker and product developer at Zingerman’s for a taste of West Michigan life.

His new venture is a high-end artisan bakery with a variety of goodies.

“Our bakery will feature a wood-fired oven churning out crusty flavorful breads, savory morning pastries, and thin crust pizzas and flatbreads,” Kibler said.

Breads will be European style — “crusty, full of flavor, prominently featuring whole grains and pleasing textures.”

Kibler hopes his attention to mostly organic ingredients and whole grains will provide Grand Rapids with a true, healthy and tasty artisan experience.

Setting up shop at the market means more attention to the product and less stress about marketing it.

“The Downtown Market estimates it will draw around 500,000 people a year,” he said. “The exposure of more than 1,000 people walking past our bakery will be extremely helpful as we attempt to establish our brand.”GR

   
  ^ back to top
   
   
 
Article
Archive
Grand Rapids
City Guide
Taste This! Michigan
Golf Magazine
  Design
Home