Last week, local restaurateur/entrepreneur Igor Jurkovic pulled the plug on Iggy’s In Convenience, the grocery store concept he launched inside the Lansing City Market last fall. Jurkovic, who also operates the Mediteran Café and Catering inside the Capitol National Bank building nearby, said he was “disappointed” to have to close.
“It just didn’t work out,” Jurkovic said. “But I have a lot of ideas for other projects downtown, and this will actually free up some resources for those.”
Over the summer, he quietly turned over the reins of the store to Paul Brogan and Nathan Williams, owner/operators of canoe and kayak rental shop River Town Adventures and Capital Loop Gifts, which were situated between Iggy’s and the Waterfront Bar & Grill, the City Market’s primary draw. The duo ran it under the Iggy’s name until last week, then announced they would partner up with Waterfront owner Scott Simmons on a new project: Capital Loop Gifts, Groceries and Café, which will expand the gift shop with Michigan-made food and beverages.
“They’re hard workers and they have great ideas,” said Patrice Drainville, Waterfront manager and company spokeswoman. “(River Town Adventures and Capital Loop) have brought new people in that would have never come here otherwise. It’s going to be a good, new direction for the market.”
At the ribbon cutting for Capital Loop Gifts in May, Brogan teased a new City Market café. The expanded shop will finally enable that concept to bloom.
“Business has been much better than we had initially anticipated, so we didn’t have time to focus on the coffee shop” Brogan said. “It was unfortunate to see Iggy’s go, but both Scott and Igor have been great to work with, so we’re going to be able to finally move on with that. We’re also going to be able to start increasing our bike rental services (at River Town Adventures). The direction of the market seems to be going more toward entertainment.”
Brogan hopes that the expanded shop — which he compared to former downtown Lansing store Michigania — will be open in time for Silver Bells in the City later this month. Progress will depend on the timing of some minor demolition scheduled for inside the market. Scott Keith, president and CEO of the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority, which oversees the City Market, confirmed that a half wall inside the market will be coming down this month but denies that it’s a move toward an entertainment-only structure.
“Removing that wall will give us more options, whether it’s allowing a vendor to expand or making way for a larger performance space,” Keith said. “We have been having more live entertainment in the market, and we’d like to continue to come up with new ideas to provide a novel shopping experience. But our focus is always on the vendors.”
Kickin’ it new school
Several businesses have launched out of the City Market before going on to settle elsewhere around town — Iorio’s Gelato & Caffé , Aggie Mae’s Bakery and For Crêpe Sake are a few recent success stories. But Lansing native Taurian Guyton is looking for more than a brick-and-mortar location for Guyton’s Heirloom Cuisine, which he opened last month in the market — he wants to build it into a culinary school.
“I want to build a true education (to prepare students) for the culinary world,” said Guyton, 33. “It will merge theory and application, which is a novel concept. At most culinary schools, you learn in the classroom but only get a chance to apply that learning once before you move on to a new lesson. This will be a chance for students to really get acquainted with a wide variety of styles.”
Guyton, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Las Vegas, has accumulated five masters degrees in business and education in preparation for this entrepreneurial effort. He said the school would be focused on keeping aspiring chefs, managers and other industry professionals here in Metro Lansing.
“Right now, the (hospitality) industry is booming,” Guyton said. “Even cities like Detroit are attracting world-renowned chefs, and all these talented kids are leaving for those cities by the thousands. This school would keep them here, teach them how a restaurant works and hopefully allow some of that growth to stay right here.”
He said his school, which doesn’t have a name yet, would target high school age kids but also allow for some overlap with young adults. But first things first: building a base with his kitchen at the City Market. Guyton’s Heirloom Cuisine will feature food prepared utilizing French culinary techniques popularized in the U.S. by Julia Child. Guyton had a brief test run last month but is still awaiting final approval from the health department before he opens full time. He expects to be open for business within the next two weeks. The initial menu will lean heavily on waffles, including both breakfast and dessert waffles options, with a full menu of “American comfort food” on the horizon.
“It’s fitting that I’m doing this inside the Lansing City Market,” Guyton said. “City markets are traditionally the place to go to get fresh produce in an urban or suburban area, but right now there’s a lot of change going on (here). It’s a good time to try something out of the ordinary.”