Food Service & Agriculture, Real Estate, and Retail

Bear Manor gets closer to crossing Little Mexico border

Real estate firm’s plan for optioned building receives first approval.

December 27, 2013
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Bear Manor Brewery
The former Little Mexico could have new owners in January if a liquor license transfer goes through.

The quiet and vacant Little Mexico could be alive and well with a lot of Harmony in the future.

Grand Rapids planning commissioners approved a proposal presented by Bear Manor Properties at their last meeting for a new brewpub and restaurant in the former Little Mexico Café at 401 Stocking Ave. NW.

Bear Manor bought the option on the foreclosed building and the half-acre it sits on from United Bank of Michigan in November for a reported $800,000, with $700,000 going for the property at Stocking Avenue and Bridge Street and the rest for the closed business’s equipment. 

The building was listed by Amicus Management, the court’s receiver, for $995,000.

Bear Manor, which went into business in 2004 and has an office at 1019 Wealthy St. SE, now owns and manages 15 properties in the city.

Brothers Barry and Jackson Van Dyke and their sister, Heather Van Dyke-Titus, own Bear Manor. The trio also owns Harmony Brewing Co. at 1551 Lake Drive SE, a popular brewpub that won the Gerald R. Helmholdt Grand Award from the Neighborhood Business Alliance and Neighborhood Ventures in 2012.

Barry Van Dyke told planning commissioners he and his siblings don’t intend to make dramatic changes to the building. He said alterations would be limited to some aesthetic changes, such as restoring and reopening a historic storefront, and making space available on the first floor for the brewing operation.

Barry Van Dyke said the firm also wants to add an outdoor deck to the second floor that would seat 35 customers. Nearly 300 seats are available inside the building, which already has been issued a Class C liquor license and an entertainment permit that Bear Manor will ask the city and the state to transfer to them should the partners go though with the option.

In fact, the transaction is reportedly contingent on the liquor license being successfully transferred.

Barry Van Dyke also told planners the brewpub and restaurant would create 60 new jobs. The firm’s plan for the building is consistent with the structure’s history and the west side’s manufacturing past, which goes back more than a century with companies such as the John Widdicomb Furniture Co.

When the Little Mexico Café was in the building, it used two floors for cooking and dining service. The building has a basement for storage that offers 11,915 square feet overall. The property has 46 on-site parking spaces and 22,460 square feet.

The plan from Bear Manor will go to the city commission for final approval.

Barry Van Dyke told the Business Journal in November his firm hoped to make a final decision on whether to purchase the building in January. Harmony Brewing celebrates its second anniversary in February.

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