All the attention is on downtown Lansing this week, with the new “urban bakery” Glazed and Confused selling out of its pastries in mere minutes and Domino’s Pizza Theater firing up its ovens in the shadow of the Knapp’s Centre. But Metro Lansing’s two other hottest retail areas — Old Town and downtown East Lansing — have also seen some shaking up this summer.
Two years ago, Spencer Soka got a special use liquor license to turn his East Lansing deli into a bar. It was the second location for his State Side Deli restaurant (the original is in Okemos; he has since opened a third location in Howell). The East Lansing bar was briely named Spencer’s Kitchen & Bar before switching to State Side Deli & Pub. He said business has been good, but the midnight curfew for the liquor license has been frustrating.
“I hate saying no to customers, but three or four nights a week that’s what I’m doing,” Soka said. “When I agreed to the special use license, I was told there were no more liquor licenses going in downtown. But now there’s Peppino’s and Hop Cat and Black Cat (Bistro) who have opened since then. What can one guy do against that?”
And then last week, Doug Johns Jr., owner of 414 Entertainment — the company behind downtown Lansing’s juggernaut Duke’s Saloon/Taps 25/the Loft/the Exchange/ Omar’s stronghold — approached East Lansing’s Planning Commission about turning State Side Deli & Pub into the fifth location for his Tin Can concept. The “upscale dive bar,” featuring oversized board games and over 100 types of canned craft beer, has worked in Lansing, Delta Township, DeWitt and Grand Rapids. A location in bar crawl central seems like a no-brainer.
“We have always wanted to be part of (East Lansing) and MSU, and this is a great opporunity,” Johns said via text. “This location has a full kitchen and will allow us to get more creative with menu items, like stuffed burgers.”
Soka said if the planning commission approves the plan, he’ll gladly make way for the new bar.
“I’m not going to leave just to get out of here,” Soka said. “But Doug seems like a good guy and he has a great reputation. He has the potential to do something really special downtown.”
Something, Soka says, that he wasn’t able to do by having to close at midnight.
Meanwhile, East Lansing recently welcomed the confectionary Velvet: A Candy Store, which sells handmade ice cream, candy and Mackinac Island-style fudge. And coming soon to the former space of Moe’s Southwest Grill, which closed earlier this year, is Jersey Mike’s Subs, a national sandwich chain.
Over in Old Town, Okemos’ Retail Therapy women’s clothier recently established a pop-up shop inside Bradly’s Home and Garden. There’s a new jewlery store called Sweet Custom Jewelry coming soon, and the Creole is slated to start serving up drinks this week. (Its sister storefront, the breakfast and lunch focused Creole Coffee Co., will open later this year). But the (literally) coolest news is the opening of JN Squeeze, the satellite location for downtown Lansing’s 5-year-old Juice Nation store.
“We cold press the juice, which keeps a lot of the nutrients and enzymes that are lost when fruits and vegetables are exposed to heat,” said co-owner/operator Tameko Richard. “It’s a lot more convenient to eat healthy this way. With the Go Green, Go White (drink), you’re getting four-and-a-half pounds of leafy greens in one bottle. You have to work hard to get that much green in your diet normally. Here, you can just drink it.”
Her husband, Vernon Richard, and daughter, Taylor Richard, helped launch the business in 2010. She said the concept emerged after surveying the market and seeing the healthy eating trend emerging.
“If you have a doughnut for breakfast, you’re craving sugar all day,” Richard said. “This is healthy and it’s convenient.”
Convenience is also a reason she picked Old Town when deciding where to open JN Squeeze. It may not have the foot traffic that downtown has, but it’s easier to park, making it more accessible for customers who want to run in and out. It also helps expand the business’ territory and introduces the concept to a new market. Richard said additional locations are eventually planned for other parts of town.
The menu features 12 types of juice cocktails made from all organic produce, much of which is sourced locally. The juice is all squeezed at the downtown location with a 6-foot-tall, 1,200-pound hydraulic cold press that exerts 28,000 pounds of pressure to extract the juice. The juice is bottled on site and transported to the Old Town location. Both stores also feature two-ounce “wellness shots” and 1-, 3- and 5-day detox cleanses using formulas that were developed in-house.
“We tested a lot of these on family members when we were coming up with recipes,” she said. “They didn’t seem to mind.”
JN Squeeze 110 E. Grand River Ave., Lansing 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday (517) 708-0300, facebook.com/juicenationmi