Chelios scores with own tequila

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Former Detroit Red Wing and Grand Rapids Griffin Chris Chelios, left, with his El Bandido Yankee co-founder Jim Bob Morris. Courtesy El Bandido Yankee

Chris Chelios spent 26 seasons in the National Hockey League, tied for most ever with Detroit Red Wings great Gordie Howe.

The American defenseman won two Stanley Cups with the Wings, helping define one of the greatest eras in Detroit sports history. But Chelios — and his son, Jake — also played at times for the Grand Rapids Griffins. The elder Chelios also spent quite a bit of time in Grand Rapids as part of the Red Wings’ developmental team.

Now, the former NHLer has started a tequila brand, El Bandido Yankee, along with Jim Bob Morris.

GR Mag caught up with Chelios to find out the details of his tequila and figure out what he likes about West Michigan.

What separates El Bandido Yankee from other tequila brands?

El Bandido Yankee Tequila is, at its core, authentic. We made it our mission to deliver a product that shows our passion, is incredibly delicious, and is ultra-premium, yet affordable. El Bandido’s essence is a passion to live boldly and share generously and it is this ethos that drives us personally and professionally. El Bandido is about jumping right in to create memorable moments with family and friends with a delicious-tasting drink that’s thoughtfully made.

You’ve spent quite a bit of time in Grand Rapids. What are your favorite spots in town?

There were so many great spots in Grand Rapids, it’s impossible to just pick one, but happy hour at The Garage Bar is always a great time! When I was there, I basically lived at the Van Andel Arena, the hotel, and the nearest steakhouse — they became my home away from home.

What is it about food and beverage that has attracted your entrepreneurial spirit? Are there other endeavors we should keep an eye out for?

My parents always had bars and restaurants, so I was raised in that atmosphere. Once I had the opportunity to open my own places, I really enjoyed the experience. When COVID hit and everything was shut down, the timing was perfect to come up with our own brand of tequila. We’ve had a great reception so far, and have built a great team that’s made this a really fun experience. For now, I’m focused on taking El Bandido Yankee to a national level. I’ve always enjoyed working hard, so this is a great challenge to build something that is ours. Once people try our tequila and taste the incredible smoothness, we can’t miss.

This story can be found in the March/April 2022 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here

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