Three new businesses in Williamston celebrated ribbon cuttings last week — with “new” being a relatively loose term here. One of them, Old Nation Brewing Co., 1500 W. Grand River Ave., has been knocking ‘em back since June, making it the oldest of the trio. Co-owners Travis Fritts (who grew up in Dimondale) and Rick Ghersi opened the 22,000-square-foot microbrewery inside a former police station. It has the capacity to pump out 30,000 barrels of beer per year once things get humming. Old Nation doubles as a restaurant, featuring pizza, pasties and bánh mì sandwiches.
“This is good beer-drinking food,” Fritts said.
Fresh out of the oven comes Groovy Donuts, 313 W. Grand River Ave., which celebrated its grand opening last week. The specialty doughnut shop actually opened in late summer, catering to pastry hounds with inventive varieties such as Glazed Sour Cream (a cake doughnut with crackle top), Maple Bacon Apple Fritter (smoked bacon crumbles and apples covered with a maple glaze) and the Orange Sunrise (orange blossom cake topped with a tangerine glaze). Those doughnuts join the typical offerings, such as sprinkles and Boston cream, with a little seasonal flair — like caramel apple cider and pumpkin cake — thrown in to keep things fresh.
And just down the street, J&B Discount Boots USA completed its move/name change. Earlier this year, Steven Goward bought the longstanding J&B Discount Shoe Mart from founder Jeff Byle, who opened the store in 1978.
“Jeff started from nothing, but he was dedicated to good service, and over the years created this great foundation with a loyal customer base,” Goward said. “I met him about four years ago, spent time with him, and somewhere along the way I started thinking of this as a potential business venture.”
Goward, 37, is a former Marine who had spent most of his non-military career working in the hospitality and retail industries. He said working for himself was always something he’d had in the back of his head. When the opportunity to buy Byle’s business came up, everything just clicked.
“It’s a great opportunity for Jeff to see something he started grow to the next level,” Goward said. “It’s hard for (entrepreneurs) to sell their businesses because the new owner doesn’t always see things the same way. But I’m very much of Jeff’s mindset. I’m streamlining the company a little, but I’m still going to try to keep that same feel that Jeff created.”
The main thrust of that streamlining effort is right there in the name. Goward said the focus will now be on boots — work, duty, motorcycle, hunting and Western — and all of his merchandise will be made in the U.S. He said it will be geared for about 70 percent male-centric audience, but will offer children’s and women’s selections as well as accommodating specialty orders.
“And I moved it about 30 feet away into a bigger (building), where it will have a lot more visibility,” Goward said.
“The best thing about boots is that everyone needs them. And with men, they usually don’t think about them until they’re a priority.”
Amalia Boukos swears she and her business partner, Debbie Carlos, aren’t trying to coin any new nicknames for Lansing. Still, the founders of River City Holiday MRKT may have inadvertently done just that if their pop-up artsand-crafts events strike a chord in the community.
“We just thought (the name ‘River City’) had a good ring to it,” Boukos said. She and Carlos opened the first iteration back in June, a one-day affair nestled into AA Creative Corridor in the heart of REO Town. This time it’s moved across the street into a vacant space next to new home of Vintage Junkies, easily discernible by the massive octagonal windows out front.
The store will feature items from about 30 artists and craftspeople, ranging from a $2 handmade Lansing postcard made by Michelle Chow to a $350 wool weaving by Bay Area artist Meghan Shimek. There will also be photography art by local shooter Khalid Ibrahim of Eat Pomegranate Photography, floral design by Jennell Lehman and ceramic jewelry by Shape Shape, a duo working out of North Carolina. But it’s not all art: River City also has holiday gift staples like soaps, balms and bath salts from Little Flower Soap Co. out of Ann Arbor.
After an invitation-only preview on Thursday, River City will hold its grand opening event Friday during Silver Bells in the City and will be open every day except Thanksgiving until Dec. 20, when it will once again disappear into the ether. Although it may be back again, someday.
“We’re still sort of experimenting with the different forms that River City can take,” Carlos said. “The response we’ve gotten has been really amazing. Things are happening here, and we’re so grateful we can be a part of this burgeoning scene. Everyone seems to be excited and so are we.”
Groovy Donuts 313 W. Grand River Ave., Williamston 6:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday (517) 996-6300
J&B Discount Boots USA 1053 W. Grand River Ave., Williamston 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday; Sundays hours TBD (517) 655-2090
River City Holiday MRKT 1136 ½ S. Washington Ave., Lansing Noon-7 p.m. daily, Friday, Nov. 19-Sunday, Dec. 20 (closed Thanksgiving) facebook.com/rivercitymrkt, rivercitymrkt.com