Gibson's Out, Gilmore In

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GRAND RAPIDS — James Powell, proprietor of 22-year-old culinary landmark Gibson’s Grapevine, announced to employees late yesterday that the restaurant will cease operations on July 30.

“It’s not a sad story,” Powell said. “One door closes and another door opens.”

Powell sold the Gibson’s building at

1033 Lake Drive SE
to Rockford Co. CEO John Wheeler three years ago. Recently, Wheeler sold the property to the Gilmore family’s restaurant group, the Gilmore Collection.

At the time, Gilmore Collection CEO Greg Gilmore told the Business Journal he intended to lease the building to Powell when he took over the property on June 1, and Powell would continue to operate the restaurant.

“We wanted Jim to stay as a tenant but he’d like to make a change,” Gilmore said. “So that’s what he’s doing.”

Powell said he had considered keeping the restaurant open for the two and a half years remaining on his lease.

“It’s better to move on,” he said. “Ultimately they are going to reconfigure the restaurant and it’s time to move on. It’s still a great building and a great spot for a restaurant, but fine dining is not what it used to be. The Gilmores do concepts for a living and they are really committed to their operation. I’m proud to be passing it on to them.”

Powell and Gilmore have agreed to the sale of the restaurant in concept, but the deal has not been finalized. Gilmore intends to open a new restaurant in the building in the early fall.

“We’re not 100 percent sure what that will look like right now,” Gilmore said. “But that’s our plan. We can’t tell you a tremendous amount because we don’t really know as this all happened so quickly.

“We’ll paint the building, make some changes, and go forward from there.”

The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so Gilmore’s restaurant likely will not look much different than the original Gibson’s.

Powell told his employees they have the opportunity to work at the new restaurant. He hopes to eventually open another, smaller restaurant, but in the meantime is looking for an executive chef position.

“I have to move on,” he said. “They would have been happy to have me stay as a tenant, (but it’s) something I just didn’t feel comfortable with.”

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