A rash of restaurant closings in 2016 fueled fears that the Metro Lansing dining scene was dying, contributing to the year’s overall depressing vibe compounded by an ugly, surreal election cycle and a slew of celebrity deaths. (Rest in peace, George Michael and Carrie Fisher, and that only covers the last four days.) But business is booming in the capital city, with plenty of good news for fans of Asian cuisine, upscale contemporary dining and traditional American comfort food — as well as aficionados of secondhand shopping, swing dancing and day spas. Here’s a look at some of the more noteworthy new businesses in town this year.
In May, the Nook opened in REO Town, dedicated to selling upcycled home décor and furniture, and Old Town got two new vintage shops: Metro Retro, which deals mostly in apparel from the ’60, ‘70s and ‘80s, and the Gallery in Old Town, a brick-and-mortar version of the 9-year-old Wonder Women Estate Sales business. And in Okemos, Kellie’s Consignments moved into a 24,000-square-foot space where it more than doubled its sales floor, which is filled with gently used women’s and men’s clothing, furniture, home décor, jewelry, shoes and accessories.
And if you’re looking to treat yo’ self, you gained two new options this year: Laurel Salon in Okemos and the Artisan Company Salon in REO Town. And Matthew Ryan Salon & Spa moved into a new expanded space in a renovated historic Old Town building. All three businesses boast a team of professional hair stylists and an ever-expanding list of side services, ranging from mani/pedi stations to massage therapy rooms.
“We’re always going to be doing the latest techniques and services,” said Matthew Ryan. “If we stop growing, things get mediocre and stale and people get bored.”
In the dining world, more than twice as many restaurants opened than closed in 2016, keeping in line with the area’s growing foodie culture. French cuisine lovers will soon be able to choose between For Crêpe Sake in downtown Lansing and EnVie, which is slated to open any week now. Bridge Street Social in DeWitt has an eclectic, pan-continental menu, as well as an extensive wine list. And the wine bar Capital Vine in Lansing Township’s Heights at Eastwood kept the focus on wine and small plates.
In February, East Lansing’s Sapporo Ramen & Noodle Bar became Mid- Michigan’s first ramen shop, introducing local diners to a style of Japanese cuisine that’s exploding in other parts of the country. Williamston’s Thai Nation Bistro brought a traditional home-cooking style of Thai cuisine to the area, while the menu at Chun Chi near Frandor is loaded with authentic Chinese dishes. And enthusiasts of “Americanized” Chinese food can opt for Panda Express, which opened in East Lansing this fall.
East Lansing also got new locations for two local success stories. The Tin Can East Lansing is the fifth iteration for the Lansing-based “world-class dive bar” concept, and Lou & Harry’s Bar & Grill marked the return to the college town for the longtime Greek-American diner/bar mini-chain.
Another local success story is restaurateur Nick Gavrilides, who celebrated the tenth anniversary of his signature Lansing restaurant, Soup Spoon Café, with a pair of new projects. In July, he bought Gracie’s Place in Williamston and refashioned it as Gracie’s Contemporary Bistro, tweaking both the menu and the service to be more in line with what made Soup Spoon a hit. He also launched a new deli meat production company out of Soup Spoon, Wolfe Meats, which makes artisan roast beef, corned beef, roast turkey and pastrami for both in-house sandwiches and carry-out.
This year also saw the transformation of longtime Lansing pawn shop Dicker and Deal into a bona fide destination location, as it moved into its new location featuring a massive showcase of taxidermied Michigan animals.
"We want to create a more positive atmosphere where a family can have a unique experience," said store general manager Stacey Potter, whose father, Gary Potter, founded the business in 1973. "We want people to be in awe."
In 2016, Old Town joined the area’s flourishing craft beer and coffee cultures. In August, the father-and-son team of Dan and Kyle Malone opened Ozone’s Brewhouse, with a concentration on lowto-moderate alcohol level “session” brews. And Bloom Coffee Roasters expanded into a full-service café, featuring coffee that is roasted on site and locally made pastries.
New barbecue joints and pizza places emerged for diners more interested in traditional American staples. Blaze Pizza in Frandor lets customers build pies that are fast-fired within three minutes, and Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar arrived in Eastwood Towne Center. And joining the bustling barbecue scene were Gump BBQ, just east of REO Town, and Lil’ BBQ Shack, on the city’s south side.
The mobile kitchen trend kept rolling in 2016 with several new food trucks. Pie Hole Pizza Truck, which deals in gourmet personal pizzas and creative desserts, set up its home base near Eastwood Towne Center. Other new additions were Daddy’s Little Grill, which has a “global street food” theme, and the Plateful Spread, which fuses the flavors of from the Far East and south of the border with its Japanese-style burritos. And Big Daddy’s lil Donuts deep fries donuts fresh to order.
The area also saw the arrival of some high-profile national chains, led by Whole Foods, which finally opened in East Lansing last spring. Georgia-based fast food chain Chick-fil-A set up shop on the city’s west side, not too far from Wayback Burgers, a hamburger chain headquartered in Delaware. British-style sandwich store Sarnie Shoppe became the newly minted Knapp Centre’s first food vendor, just two blocks over from Nashville-style chicken chain Hot Chicken Kitchen, which opened in September. And Nashville-based chain Gigi’s Cupcakes started slinging sweets in the fledgling Trowbridge Village Shopping Center.
So stop with all the negativity — 2016 wasn’t that bad. And make sure to come back next week for a preview of some of the big projects that will be new in town in 2017.
Metro Lansing businesses we lost in 2016:
Fahrenheit Ultra Lounge
Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven Pizza
Max & Erma’s
Tom + Chee
Clara’s Lansing Station
Henry’s on the Square