CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the reason for William White being evicted was Douglas J Aveda Institute's interest in the area.
On Saturday, Carol “Red” Smith and her wife/business partner Jackie Randall closed their two-year-old barbecue booth inside Lansing City Market to prepare for its transition to a standalone restaurant. When it opens in early 2017, the newly renamed Red’s Smokehouse Burgers & BBQ will continue the evolution of Smith and Randall’s business, which had its beginning just a few feet from its future home.
In June 2014, Smith and Randall launched Red’s Smokehouse as a Wednesday-only pop-up barbecue stand at the Allen Market Place’s farmers market in Lansing’s Eastside Neighborhood. Then in September, they moved into to the Lansing City Market, where they built a following around their bacon-wrapped pork loin, brisket tacos and macaroni-and-cheese balls. A spin-off food truck followed earlier this year, starting on the city’s south side and eventually landing in the newly formed Old Town Food Truck Court, 536 E. Grand River Ave.
“It’s been a slow process, but every move we’ve made has been deliberate,” Smith said. “It’s like barbecue — you can’t rush something good.”
Since the closing of their City Market space, the duo has been busy transforming a 1,200-square-foot space on the same block as Allen Market Place, 1619 E. Kalamazoo St., into a full-fledged restaurant.
“It’s a former office space and has been empty for a while, so there’s a lot of work to do,” Smith said. “It has an industrial feel to it that I really like. And it’s going to fit in with the personality of the neighborhood, which is very important to me.”
Besides the big move, Smith recently pulled the trigger on the business’ new website, redsbbqmi.com. She said Red’s Smokehouse Burgers & BBQ will have a “state-of-the-art” kitchen, a small dining area, a deli and a takeout counter. The build-out will cost about $80,000, and Smith has turned to crowdsourcing to secure at least half of that. Through an Indiegogo campaign launched this week, she’s hoping to raise $40,000, with rewards ranging from a free order of mac-and-cheese balls to a catered party for up to 100 people.
“The community has been so supportive of us from the beginning,” Smith said. “This is a way for them to be part of our journey.”
The expansion will also allow Smith and Randall to expand their hours; Red’s expects to be open from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, with a Sunday brunch from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
“We never did dinners at Lansing City Market, so this is a new territory for us,” Smith said. “It’s exciting to see what that’s going to be like.”
As a way of paying tribute to her roots as a pop-up, Smith said she will welcome new vendors into her kitchen to help them launch their own pop-up endeavors. She’s not pursuing a liquor license — although she said the building’s owner is reaching out to local brewers looking to open a craft brewery on-site — but she hopes her cooking will speak for itself.
“Anyone can do barbecue,” she said. “It’s pretty common, but I use a little artistic flair to tweak traditional recipes. I take a couple extra steps and do things with spices and smoking that no one else is doing locally. And people are discovering us, slowly but surely. Hopefully this move will allow us to reach an even wider crowd.”
For most retail stores, Black Friday was a single deep-discount day to lure new customers in the doors. But White Bros Music will keep giving deals of nearly half off select merchandise through the end of the month as a way to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
“It’s just my way of showing my appreciation to all the people who supported us over the years,” said owner William White. “The combination of the ’08 crash and (moving) out of Okemos did a lot to hurt business, but a lot of loyal customers stayed with us. I can’t thank them enough.”
Two years ago, White was evicted from his longtime Okemos location near the corner of Okemos and Hamilton roads. White’s old building — as well as his former restaurant, the Travelers Club International Restaurant & Tuba Museum — now sit empty.
“I moved the business to Bath so I could walk to work,” White said. “There are only six other stores downtown now, and I’m doing my part to help the city get going again. And I’m also looking to reopen the Tuba Museum somewhere, maybe in Old Town.”
White co-founded White Bros Music as a violin restoration shop in 1976 with his brother, Richard White. William White bought his brother out after 10 years and expanded services to include music lessons and retail instrument sales and repair, including stringed instruments, band instruments and electric pianos. White also runs an apprentice program teaching instrument repair.
“I’d like to pass the business along someday to one of (my apprentices), but no one’s showed interest,” White said. “Some have gone on to open their own businesses. If I can’t find anyone, I’ll probably just putter around until I’m too old to do anything.”
White Bros Music is offering 40 percent discounts on select merchandise all month and giving away 40 $10 gift certificates to customers who write about a memorable experience they’ve had with the business.
“The thing I love about doing what I do is that many times I get to be the first person who introduces someone to musical instruments,” White said. “I still remember being a fourth grader and the joy I felt the first time I picked up a violin. I get to see that joy all the time. Music is an essential part of life. I just wish more people saw it that way.”
White Bros Music
13630 Main St., Bath
10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday; noon-4 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday
(517) 903-6040, whitebrosmusic.com