When “multipreneur” Garry VonMyhr took a look around Hudsonville a few years ago and noticed a dearth of good restaurants, he thought opening his own would fill the gap and bond him to the booming town.
VonMyhr, 30, has co-founded multiple businesses in the Grand Rapids area, including Genius Phone Repair, Mobile Defenders and Tech Defenders.
He moved with his wife Katelyn and sons, Maxwell and Elias, from northeast Grand Rapids to the suburb of Hudsonville a few years ago and began looking to play an active role in his new community.
“I thought having ownership in a restaurant might be a great way to achieve that (and be) somewhat of a fun project,” he said.
The VonMyhrs arrived as the city of Hudsonville was beginning to implement a new master plan adopted in 2015. The Imagine Hudsonville 2030 plan calls for a connected, vibrant, livable and distinctive small town by 2030. The plan, 12 years in the making, called in part for forging a downtown core amid a mile-long stretch of detached buildings in the city’s business district along Chicago Drive, which it has not had before.
“That was probably the biggest thing that drew me in — the city being behind creating a downtown Hudsonville and being invested in that,” VonMyhr said. “I wanted to be part of that. It was new, creative and I thought would be successful.”
The Business Journal previously reported on projects the city has fostered as part of the master plan, including the $4.5-million, 25,000-square-foot Hudson Center building, at 3424 Chicago Drive, which houses retail, restaurants, office space and apartments and was completed in February.
The city also is planning a green space called the Village Green and creating a pedestrian walkway on Harvey Street to encourage walkability and community.
The walkway intersects the $2-million, mixed-use anchor development Terra Square, at 3380 Chicago Drive, which consists of an indoor/outdoor farmers market, a community center, events space, workspace — and VonMyhr’s restaurant, Sonder Eatery.
VonMyhr opened the restaurant in November 2017 as Sonder Provisions but eventually realized the concept was too “stuffy” for the everyday Hudsonville patron looking for a local watering hole.
“People really came to us more for special occasions — birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Easter and other special occasions — but it wasn’t enough of a neighborhood family feel as we really wanted,” he said, noting the prices were too high and the portions too small to draw in regulars.
After absorbing that feedback from customers and the community, as well as comments on the speed of service and lack of vegan and vegetarian options, VonMyhr over the past few months has been working on “Sonder 2.0.”
Seven months ago, he hired Steve Hulsebus as the new general manager and Kelsey Winter-Troutwine as the new executive chef. The team has been working to overhaul the restaurant concept — including the new name — and just unveiled the new menu May 2, available at sondereatery.com.
“What we’re really trying to go for is ‘upscale diner,’” Hulsebus said. “It’s fun food. It’s not stuffy. You can come in here dressed any way you feel comfortable, and you can get a wonderful meal (and) have great cocktails. That’s the whole idea behind it — but using local products.”
Signature items on the new menu include pork fried rice, risotto, flat iron steak and vegan noodle bowl entrées; sloppy joes and open-faced chicken and waffle sandwiches; and shareables such as charred lemon hummus, kimchi nachos and butcher’s dumplings.
Sonder serves an array of brandy, gin, rum and scotch cocktails and more, along with several desserts and weekend brunch and lunch.
“We want to use local farms and Michigan products as much as we possibly can,” Hulsebus said.
VonMyhr said he believes the restaurant now aligns with what the community wants.
“This is us making several changes to really be quite a bit more approachable. We made a lot of changes to the business to really feel like we’re a better part of the Hudsonville/Jenison community and better there to serve that community,” he said.
“We want it to be a spot where families can come in and hang out once a week, once every couple of weeks, not just on special occasions.”
Photo: New executive chef Kelsey Winter-Troutwine’s menu will feature dishes ranging from pork fried rice and risotto to vegan noodle bowls and sloppy joes. Courtesy Jaimie Skriba Photography.
This article first appeared in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, a sister publication of GRMag.com.