Hudsonville makes push for growth
Community center and upscale restaurant among city expansion projects.
(As seen on WZZM TV 13) A project to turn Hudsonville from a drive-by community to a destination is well underway.
Last month, the $2-million community center building, Terra Square, 3380 Chicago Drive, was completed, providing an anchor for a grand vision of Hudsonville’s future. Now, the construction of a pedestrian walkway on Harvey Street is ongoing as well, helping spur more potential developments by private investors.
Terra Square is anchored by its indoor/outdoor farmers market, which is open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday from June to September. The market also will have select winter dates, as well. The former — and long-time vacant — car dealership now is home to an event space and co-working space.
Another main peg of Terra Square will be open this fall, following months of delays, when Sonder Provisions opens its door to the public.
The restaurant is led by Nick Rusticus, a chef and 25-year-old Hudsonville native who chose to return to West Michigan to open an eatery in his hometown and to help change the way the community looks at food. Rusticus spent nearly 10 years in kitchens in Arizona, including his most recent post as executive chef at Second Story Liquor Bar in Scottsdale, Arizona, which received a four-star rating from the Arizona Republic in January 2016.
“I take opportunities as doors open; they may never open again,” Rusticus said. “I always had a goal of opening a restaurant around 25, but I never thought I’d be back in Grand Rapids. But the Terra Square project encompasses everything I’m about: the farmer, agriculture and livestock.
“I wouldn’t have a job if not for those things.”
Rusticus was first announced as the restaurateur by Hudsonville in August 2016, following an RFP process last year. An initial investor backed out earlier this year, leaving the future in question until a message from the past came back.
Hudsonville native and Genius Phone Repair Founder Garry VonMyhr messaged Rusticus to offer support for the restaurant in October 2016. At the time, the help wasn’t needed, but with the investment falling through, the Genius Phone Repair entrepreneurs, including VonMyhr and his partners, Jordan Notenbaum and Steve Barnes, stepped to the plate.
“We’re entrepreneurs, and we love new challenges,” VonMyhr said. “For a long time, we’ve wanted to do a restaurant.”
Barnes, who has restaurant experience from earlier in his career, was one of the main catalysts for the Genius Phone Repair team wanting to get involved in a restaurant.
“It was just a matter of time for us three to open a restaurant,” he said. “We didn’t know what it was, but we needed to get into this and this worked out.”
The new investment partners kept the project moving forward but also pressed pause. The layout of Sonder has changed with the new investment, increasing the seat count of the 1,300-square-foot space, but the main mission of a farm-to-table restaurant in the heart of an agricultural community remains.
“Bringing on these guys, we looked at the floor plan and reassessed where we were at,” Rusticus said. “It brought us back to working with the kitchen designer and architect. It puts us back a few months, but it’s for the benefit of everything.”
The entire Sonder team, along with officials at the city of Hudsonville, now is on the same page, as ground broke on the project and should be open by early October.
With Hudsonville in the middle of the route between Grand Rapids and Holland, both the city officials and the Sonder leadership see an opportunity as both those communities develop. Rusticus said small towns across America are at a crucial point in deciding their future, and Hudsonville is making a hard push toward becoming a growing and vibrant community in West Michigan.
The Hudsonville 2030 plan was detailed by the Business Journal in April 2016 and includes slowing traffic on Chicago Drive, potential village greens, new streets and an amphitheater, along with private-sector developments. Beautification of Chicago Drive also is among the top priorities, with evergreens planned to shield the railroad tracks and median gardens.
With the goal of growing Hudsonville, Rusticus sees his restaurant as an opportunity to create a destination for diners to see the fruits of Hudsonville’s labors in action but also open the eyes of Hudsonville residents.
“There needs to be a higher-quality restaurant,” Rusticus said. “We have a lot of appreciation for wine here but a lack of quality food to back it up. We want to make a statement about how people look at food and bridge the gap of how accessible fresh and good food is.
“It’s been tagged with high prices and stuffiness. We have an opportunity to break down that barrier and show you can enjoy great food without taking a loan out of the bank.”