Gilmores To Open Lowell Restaurant

September 3, 2002
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LOWELL — The Gilmore Collection will soon open its 15th restaurant and this one will serve customers on a scenic site in downtown Lowell.

The Gilmores — owners of The BOB, Rose’s and The Kirby House, just to name a few of the family’s holdings — are doing what they are well-known for: restoring an old building.

This time they’re reviving a 97-year-old brick building along the Grand River near the Lowell Showboat.

The address of the restaurant will also be its name: 201 East Main.

“It’s an outstanding location and we’ll have a nice patio right there on the river,” said Gregory Gilmore, president of The Gilmore Collection.

The building has been vacant for a while; its last occupant was a coffeehouse.

The structure has two stories and a basement that total 10,500 square feet. The restaurant will fill the ground floor and the Gilmores plan to lease loft office space on the second level.

Gilmore said 201 East Main will seat about 80 diners, while the patio overlooking the river will accommodate another 40 to 50 people.

“We’re going to have a wood-fired grill and a wood-fired oven, so we’re tending toward wood-fired feasts and a lot of comfort food: steaks and chops and seafood off the grill. The type of foods that people are very familiar with,” said Gilmore.

“The main thing I think is the foods will be fresh and made from scratch, as opposed to a lot of deep-fried things or things that come out of a box,” he added. “Just food and beverage and conversation.”

Gilmore Collection COO Steve Bowyer designed the restaurant’s interior. Visser Bros. Inc. is managing the project, the same firm that turned a big, old brick warehouse into The BOB at 20 Monroe NW in Grand Rapids.

The new restaurant is news because independents like the Gilmores normally don’t open too many restaurants these days. Most new ones are franchises.

A tough business with a slim margin gets tougher for independents when national names such as Bennigan’s, IHOP and Culver’s come into the metro area and bring a lot of marketing power with them.

“That is our biggest challenge, the chains, because they’re getting better everyday. So that makes it harder and harder for us. But we don’t worry about them. We’re more concerned about ourselves,” said Gilmore.

Yet, that stiff competition hasn’t stopped The Gilmore Collection from getting bigger.

“In some respects, we’re almost a chain because this will be our 15th restaurant.

“In some respects, we have the buying power of a chain now and some of the economies of scale of a chain, and the ability to spread the cost out over 15 restaurants. So it’s a little different for me now than it was 10 years ago,” he said.

“In some respects, it’s getting a little easier. But there is no question that it’s not an easy business.”

The sputtering economy hasn’t hurt business for The Gilmore Collection. Gilmore thinks that people have decided to stay closer to home this year and are spending a bigger share of their dollars here that they might have spent elsewhere in the past.

“And they still don’t know how to cook, which is a bonus,” he said with a laugh.

201 East Main will open in November, in time for Thanksgiving.

Gilmore said his company chose Lowell as the place for its newest eatery because the building was a good value, the location was tough to beat, and the restaurant will be in a historic district, which means tax credits for the firm once the renovation is finished.

“It’s a great little city with a beautiful countryside, and it has a tremendous amount of traffic flowing through it. There is nothing there for what we’re going to do. There are a lot of good restaurants there that are totally different than what we will be,” said Gilmore.

“We just think the area and the surrounding communities northeast and south for 15 to 20 miles will be interested in what we will have to offer.”

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