July 20 2016 11:43 AM
Mysterious signs on the walls of Grand River Bait & Tackle in Old Town herald the return of a mystery business whose identity is revealed in this column, but not in this cutline, because we want you to read the column.
Lawrence Cosentino/City Pulse

A mystery rose above the metallic scrape of Old Town’s annual ScrapFest event last weekend: Who was behind this Return2OldTown.com website emblazoned on flyers and the two giant signs flanking the nearby Grand River Bait & Tackle store? No business name appeared, and a visit to the website revealed this cryptic message:

“The wayward sons and daughters of a tumultuous and glorious past, fraught with tragedy … are finally coming home to where they first began. Older, wiser, and just as reckless, we're going to turn one of the blights of Oldtown Lansing into a shining beacon of our community … .”

The mystery started to untangle with a visit to Grand River Bait & Tackle, which opened in that location 18 years ago. Owner/operator Anna Werner confirmed that her business is moving to the corner of US-27 and Sheridan Road next month, freeing up the space for Old Town’s mystery revenant.

“Our rent is going up again, and it’s more than we can handle this time,” Werner said. “I liked being close to the river and having all this floor space, but it’s just too much.”

Werner said the new space, at 16999 US-27 Suite A, is about 1,800 square feet and will feature all the same merchandise and services, albeit a little more concentrated. She said the move will actually enable her to offer a service she’s long been ruminating on.

“I’ve been able to work out a joint deal with an acquaintance who restores and sells vintage fishing gear,” Werner said. “I had backed away from that aspect of the business a few years ago, but with this move, it just seemed to work out. Vintage is very popular right now.”

And it turns out that the new tenant of Werner’s old space is riding that same vintage wave. Next month, Ted Wilson will move his 10-year old business, Replay Entertainment Exchange, back to Old Town. In 2006, Wilson opened the used video game/DVD/vinyl shop kitty-corner from Grand River Bait & Tackle, in a space now home to Capital City Scuba.

“Ten years ago, Old Town had a completely different vibe,” Wilson said. “It still has so much going for it, but it speaks to an older, mature crowd. Something like (Replay) will make it younger. Having a record shop come back will fill a gap and bring the youth.”

This will actually be the sixth move for Replay since its debut. Just one month after its opening in October 2006, a building fire next door caused about $5,000 in damages. The next move was to Lansing’s Eastside Neighborhood, where Wilson added another of his passions to the store’s offerings: live music.

“That’s actually something that became part of Replay from that point on,” Wilson said. “Featuring local musicians is a great way to encourage creativity and build a community of people focused on the arts. That’s where we really started to build a following, and some of those people have stuck with us ever since then.”

From there, Wilson hopped over to East Lansing, where he moved twice more before settling in at Brookfield Plaza. That’s also where he relocated his other business, Michigan Shirt Works, a T-shirt printing store. But he said East Lansing has lost its mojo.

“When I was (handing out flyers) at ScrapFest over the weekend, it screamed East Lansing in the ‘80s and ’90s,” Wilson said. “I grew up in the middle of this vibrant (entertainment) scene, but East Lansing doesn’t have that anymore. Even though it’s surrounded by students, it doesn’t seem like it serves the young people anymore. They’re all looking elsewhere. I think this move to Old Town is going to help us make the best connection with our audience.”

Wilson said in addition to building a stage inside the new Old Town space to keep that live music action going, he plans to add craft soda sales, a “nano brewery” (think: smaller than a microbrewery) and add a membership system. He also wants to resurrect his “B-Movie Beatdown” concept, where live audiences get to heckle old movies and launch video game tournaments. Wilson will close the East Lansing store at the end of the month for about two weeks to get ready for the move, a big job that includes organizing and cataloguing his bread-and-butter stock of used media.

“There’s still a lot of collectors who want to be able to touch physical media — they don’t care about watching something on Netflix,” Wilson said. “Those are the people who keep (Replay) alive, and have turned it from just a record store into this place where people can meet each other and make a connection. All our moves over the years has been tough, but there are people who have stuck with us, and I’m in awe of their loyalty.”

So why not just announce the move like any normal business, instead of creating an enigmatic website?

Said Wilson: “Everyone loves a good mystery.”

Gone fishing

If you prefer your fish already caught, breaded and fried, a new Old Town business, Fish Market of Grand River, might be more your speed. The “you buy/we fry” restaurant took over the building previously home to a Famous Taco and, more recently, Grand River Coney Island. The ichthyophilic menu features whiting, salmon, catfish and red snapper, as well as shrimp, scallops and chicken. Also featured: “crack chicken” batter to give north-enders their addictive seasoning fix.

Fish Market of Grand River 902 E. Grand River Ave., Lansing 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 10 a.m.-midnight Thursday-Saturday; noon-9 p.m. Sunday (517) 999-0482

Grand River Bait & Tackle 536 E. Grand River Ave., Lansing 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday; 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday; 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Saturday (517) 482-4461 grandriverbaitandtackle.com