Foodies in Grand Rapids may once again be able to order a Mean Green Burrito or another Gaia Café favorite. Andrea Bumstead, who managed the café during its last six years of operation, launched a Kickstarter campaign this week with the hopes of bringing the beloved vegan and vegetarian restaurant back to life.
Gaia Café closed three years ago after its owner decided to retire. It had been open for 32 years. Rumors have swirled ever since that the breakfast and lunch spot would make a return. But as time passed, former patrons began to think a return was wishful thinking.
Now, if Bumstead can raise her $30,000 goal by the end of the 30-day Kickstarter window the café’s return seems imminent.
Bumstead has her sights on a space in Grand Rapids’ Creston neighborhood, which she said reminds her of East Hills “circa 1995.”
“I have been working in the Creston district for over a year and it has become my favorite place to stroll through and connect with the people,” Bumstead said. “It has a lot of potential and a lot of eagerness from the neighborhood that I believe Gaia will thrive in.”
Bumstead plans to reopen with the same menu and also offer seasonal options.
“We will have the same menu, as well as bringing back some old favorites,” she said. “We will also be featuring a rotating seasonal menu that will be closely fitting for the vegan diet and straight from our local farms. There will be a space for a juice and coffee bar that will allow for quick service, grab and go items, and take out.”
Bumstead acknowledged that a lot has changed in Grand Rapids’ restaurant scene since Gaia closed its doors, but she believes the restaurant’s reputation and loyal patrons will be eager to see the business thrive once again.
“Absolutely the restaurant scene has changed and Grand Rapids is over capacity in many areas, and we recognize that there are plenty of options to fulfill dietary needs such as vegetarian and vegan options,” she said. “With that, Gaia Café is a different breed from any competition. Not only will we have 100 percent guaranteed vegetarian/vegan dishes, but we have the need, the desire, and the love of the people to back it up.”
She noted Gaia Café always had something special beyond just being a restaurant with delicious food.
“I fell in love with Gaia the moment I walked in to get a job there,” she said. “I have witnessed many facets of life walk through those doors, and in many ways have had a part in their story. It’s somewhat magical in a way.”
Bumstead said in the end she is working to reopen Gaia for its customers. “Gaia Cafe wasn’t just a place to grab a bite to eat. It was an institute for many, and for those that truly understood that, are the ones that bringing it back is for.”
A successful Kickstarter campaign is the first step in reopening Gaia. Bumstead said the $30,000 goal is the minimum amount needed to secure a loan for the remaining funds needed. Ultimately, Bumstead said she needs $100,000 to bring Gaia Café back to Grand Rapids.
“We are not looking to get fully funded by this campaign, we are asking our beloved patrons to help give a much needed boost to make it happen and to secure our location,” she said.
Her ambitious timeline has Gaia set to reopen by late spring or early summer of 2018, assuming all goes to plan.
Bumstead said she’s excited to bring back a place “so many people have been missing and picking up where the journey left off.”
“I also want to say that reopening is not to disregard the people that were the beginning Gaia Café,” she said. “I’m reopening to honor the history of what they started, and this is an opportunity to continue to give back what they had given for so many years. It just may be in a new light.”
The Gaia Cafe Kickstarter campaign has 27 days to go.
*Photo by Mike Buck