On the southwest Side of Grand Rapids sits “a mom-and-pop shop with a twist,” as co-owner, Sylene Wilkining described it.
On Oct. 7, husband-and-wife team, Alex and Sylene Wilkening, opened Grain Sandwich Shop, a quick-service restaurant with a hometown vibe.
“We’ve been trying to do our own thing, and dreaming and scheming up ideas since we’ve been together, and we’ve been together for almost nine years now,” Wilkening said.
The duo searched for over a year to find the right place and when they came across the spot on Butterworth Street, they knew the direction they wanted to go.
“Sandwiches are by far the best food group in our mind. Everybody loves sandwiches and you can do a lot of unique things with them. It helps that we can have a limited menu and focus on things we really enjoy, all while staying in one category.”
Grain offers a simple menu of eight sandwiches that change with the seasons. The shop works with local businesses, like Nantucket, Great Lakes Potato Chips, Visser Farms, and Sobie Meats, to stay true to its hometown roots.
“We focus on fresh, local, Grand Rapids, or at least Michigan, businesses.”
Along with local partners, Grain makes homemade pasta salad and coleslaw to pair with its unique sandwiches.
The shop serves classic options with a modern twist, like a BLT with seasonal jam and a peanut butter, jelly and bacon, one of Wilkening’s favorites.
“The peanut butter and jelly is peanut butter, seasonal jam, which right now is a cinnamon pear, and we’re hoping next week to switch to a pumpkin for the fall, and then bacon and a honey goat cheese spread that we make in house.”
The generous fillings overflow Nantucket’s bread, and deliver a sandwich packed with a delicious punch.
Grain aims to stay loyal and local. “Honestly, our main goal isn’t to get huge or crazy. We don’t plan on outdoing the big box names in sandwiches. We just want to be a fresher, better choice for Grand Rapids,” Wilkening said. “We hope to slowly build a catering business out of it. We want to reach out to local businesses and let them know that we can be doing meetings for them.”
The exposed brick and modern interior of Grain creates a homey ambiance. “We are hoping to be considered a mom and pop shop. It is a family-owned business,” Wilkening said.
The husband-and-wife team are enjoying their new journey together. “We get to see our dream come true and get to do it together as a family. We hired one of our best friends and he’s like family to us. It’s really nice to all work together and make sure things are done correctly and the way that we want it. Just having that dream come to life is really exciting for us.”
Grain is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with catering hours from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is located at 812 Butterworth St. SW.