Creston Brewery opened a year ago and quickly became a neighborhood hotspot. This week, the brewery, located in the Creston Business District at 1504 Plainfield Ave. NE, celebrates its one-year anniversary with an outdoor celebration on Saturday in conjunction with the Best of Creston Festival.
Scott Schultz, who co-owns Creston Brewery with Molly Bouwsma-Schultz, Vincent Lambert and Cailin Kelly, spoke to GR|Mag about year one and the brewery’s plans to renovate its upstairs into a performance venue this fall as well as plans to begin canning its popular beers for sale in specialty shops like the Creston Market.
GR|Mag: Creston Brewery opened a year ago. Tell me what the past year has been like for you guys?
Scott Schultz: It’s been a lot of work and a lot of fun. It’s kind of a completely different place than we started with. We’ve updated our food menu, figured out our best selling beers and are trying to keep up with demand for those while trying out new ones. One year in, we are just getting established and hitting our stride right now.
GR|Mag: Tell me about your anniversary celebration. What do you have planned for Saturday?
SS: We’ll be having live music all day outside. Peace to Mateo, Rick Chime, Lady Ace Boogie and Cabildo will perform between 1 p.m. and 10 p.m. There will be a dunk tank out here too. You can sign up to dunk anyone of your choice and donate the proceeds to Creston Neighborhood Association. There will be beer and specialty food outside. It’s a free event and open to all ages.
Also, at the same time, the Best of Creston Festival is taking place. All the other businesses in the business district are having specials and events. So there will be events up and down Plainfield. We’re expecting a cool day for the neighborhood and we’re excited to have the street party.
GR:Mag: I’ve noticed you guys have a lot of regular events. What are some of the performances that take place each week at the bar?
SS: Sundays we have our Live in Person series with live music from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. It has been a lot of fun because it’s an untraditional time for bands to play. We get a good crowd in here for that. We’ve been hosting Geeks who Drink on Tuesday nights and the second and fourth Sundays of the month we do our open mic, called Creston Vibes.
We’re looking towards year two and we are trying to plan another night or two of live music. We will also be starting construction on our banquet hall so we’ll be able to host events up there. We hope to start construction in the fall. We will do our own in house events, comedy, music and spoken word.
GR|Mag: Over the past year, have there been any surprises or anything you weren’t expecting that you’ve encountered?
SS: Our vision of what kind of restaurant we wanted to be has changed due to customer feedback. We started as a Latin American themed restaurant with burritos, tacos, bowls, salads and nachos, but our kitchen team has really upped the anti with more gastro pub type meals, things like salmon, fried chicken, brisket and also having more vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options.
We’ve become more of a fancy restaurant in our own way, while trying to still keep price points low and trying to be approachable from any income’s perspective. So that’s been surprising. We haven’t been so hard and fast that the menu has to be one thing. We’ve been listening to customers and it’s evolved into its own special menu.
GR|Mag: I’ve noticed you guys are frequently busy, often at typical times, but sometimes at less typical times. Tell me about making the decision to open on the northeast side of Grand Rapids, where it’s a little less bustling than maybe some of the other neighborhoods right now?
SS: We absolutely love where we are and I think we’ve got the best place we possibly could have to open. The Creston business community is extremely supportive as is the neighborhood.
A lot of people not used to frequenting their neighborhood establishments in Creston are now walking down to the brewery and increasing foot traffic around Plainfield and Quimby. That’s been a huge goal of ours, to turn the neighborhood around to where people can re-approach it and see these beautiful buildings and all these streets with classic architecture, all these old houses. There are great bones in the Creston neighborhood, but it has kind of been glossed over for a long time.
GR|Mag: The Red Jet Café has been empty for a while now. Would you like to see a tenant move in there, even another restaurant? Do you think that would be positive for the brewery? Does it hurt at all having empty buildings around the brewery?
SS: There’s been a ton of interest in that building so we are excited to see what finally goes up in there. More what we are worried about is 616 Development has that corner on Plainfield and Quimby, right across the street from us, and we are anxious for them to get started on their project.
It’s supposed to be a bunch of retail and apartments. Right now we are left with some blighted buildings that we can’t wait for them to raze. That is the number one goal, getting the blight out of the neighborhood and to get more development coming in.
Creston has a diverse demographic. Hopefully everyone is on board with what we are trying to do here. We are trying to make it equitable for everyone and create jobs and not price people out of the neighborhood.
GR|Mag: You mentioned already about the construction on the second level to create a venue. Are there any other big goals for year two you are working on?
SS: We are really trying to keep up with the demand for beer. We are self-distributing all across the state right now. Our beer has been our biggest success so we hope to keep brewing to demand. Hopefully that means canning in the next year too.
GR|Mag: Tell me about what you’ve been doing with your distribution this past year?
SS: Michigan has this distribution law where you can self distribute under 1,000 barrels per year, so we are trying to stay under that. We have a delivery van and a couple of us deliver kegs to bars. We are in Travers City, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Rockford. We’ve been on tap at about 40 different places and we are distributing 35 to 50 kegs a month to different places. We’re just trying to keep up with demand. Our Fox Deluxe is our best seller. That’s our house IPA. Grale is our second best seller.
GR|Mag: How would canning change your operations?
SS: It would mean hiring more people in the brewery. We would self distribute to specialty shops like Siciliano’s Market, Martha’s Vineyard, Creston Market, places we know would be good advocates for our beer. We’re not trying to take over Meijer or anything, we’re just looking to distribute cans where our fans are.