Jan. 11 2017 11:53 AM

The Grid Arcade and Bar

The Grid Arcade and Bar will move into the former Chrome Cat building early this year after a $300,000 renovation job. The bar will feature dozens of vintage video games and pinball machines and a drink menu heavy on craft beer.
Allan I. Ross/City Pulse

Correction: This story has been edited to correctly identify how long Rendezvous on the Grand was open at 226 E. Grand River Ave. The business operated for three years, from 2005 to 2008.

For the last few months, a sign in the former Chrome Cat building in Old Town has teased that a new business is “coming soon.” The sign features the title character from the movie “Wreck-It Ralph,” which takes place inside a video game — fitting, given the nature of the business, which has been formally announced this week. The Grid Arcade and Bar, due later this winter or in early spring, will combine the popularity of craft beer and creative cocktails with the growing interest in vintage video games.

“This isn’t going to be just a bar — it’s going to be an experience,” said co-owner Corey Montie. “Even if you don’t play video games, it’s the kind of place where you can walk in, sit down, order drinks and just take it all in. We’re working hard to make sure this is a unique environment that people will crave. The idea is to make a place where our customers will say, ‘I don’t feel like I’m in Lansing anymore.’”

That sense of escapism is central to Montie’s career path. He was born and raised in Mid-Michigan but spent the last 14 years outside the state. He roved the country after college, cultivating a career as an adventure sports guide, eventually settling in San Francisco, where he worked as a contractor for several guide companies.

“If there’s an outdoor adventure sport, I’ve probably taught it at some point,” Montie said. “But the thing that really appealed to me was combining ideas. I would do things like have a white linen table set up with a sushi platter in the middle of a five-mile mountain hike. That sounds silly, but taking two ideas that you don’t think go together and seeing it work is so amazing.”

Montie eventually transitioned from the great outdoors into San Francisco’s bustling high-end social club scene, where he became a minority partner in a business that engineered city events. That led him back to the Midwest, but after six years he sold his shares and moved to Hong Kong, where he spent three years in the wine and charter yacht industries. But then he heard Michigan calling to him.

“My sister was about to have her first, and I decided that I wanted to be here for that and be closer to my family,” he said. “And it’s great to be home. Rediscovering Lansing has been such an interesting experience. When I left, Old Town was pretty gritty, but now there all these restaurants and boutiques. I can’t believe how far it’s come. Our (vision for) the Grid is going to be the continuation of that transformation.”

Montie’s business partner is Callie Mykut, who moved to Lansing from New York. The city is home to the Barcade chain of concept bars that started in 2004. The Grid is loosely based on Barcade, which has the same video-games-and-craft-beer vibe, but the Grid has an edge over its muse.

“This building itself is an inspiration,” Montie said. “It’s got an impressive (design) and an ideal location in the middle of Old Town. There’s nothing else like this in the area. We took one look at it and knew this had to be the Grid.”

Built as a bank in 1929, the 3,000-square-foot building, 226 E. Grand River Ave., features ornate brickwork and massive arched windows that flood the space with natural light. It was converted into the bar Rendezvous on the Grand in 2005, which closed 2008. It reopened in 2009 as the lesbian bar Chrome Cat, which lasted for two years. It’s been empty since 2011. While Montie stressed that they will not alter the building's original architecture, time has not been kind to the interior.

“The plaster walls were peeling, and it needed new flooring and new electrical and plumbing work,” Montie said. “The bar that was there wasn’t going to work for our concept, so we tore that out and are building a new one from the ground up. Other than that, we’re trying to keep as much as we can intact. That building’s so iconic — we don’t want to do anything too crazy.”

Montie said renovations will cost about $300,000 but will not include the addition of a kitchen. He said Old Town is “doing great” in the dining department, and that he would be open to working with a food truck, which could potentially set up shop in the massive parking lot, Lot 56/Cesar Chavez Plaza. Although they’ve been working on the space for months, he and Mykut have maintained top secrecy, which has only fueled excitement.

“The word of mouth has been staggering,” Montie said. “All we have is a Facebook page with no information and a landing site for our URL, but people are already talking. It’s a promising sign. Callie has a true business mind, and it’s been great developing this with her.”

Montie said his and Mykut’s sensibilities have lined up nicely, which he said will eventually make the Grid a standout establishment.

“Callie has the same desire I have to create something authentic, and coming from the other coast adds another dimension,” Montie said. “We’re both big city people looking to create something more familiar. The Grid is going to be such a good fit, and neither of us could imagine a better place than Old Town. It took going away and coming back to see the possibilities, and I definitely see more on the way.”