21 West Michigan businesses we said goodbye to in 2021

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It was challenging year for businesses around the country and West Michigan was no exception.

“The COVID-19 pandemic inflicted unprecedented destruction on restaurant and hotel operators across the state, with thousands closing their doors forever. For those that remain, erratic supply chains, crippling inflation and a persistent virus continue to complicate their day-to-day operations,” Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association President & CEO Justin Winslow stated earlier this month in a news release commending the approval of business aid.

Here are some of the Grand Rapids-area places we’ve said goodbye to in 2021:

Apothecary Off Main | 76 Monroe Center NW, Grand Rapids

Closed: Feb. 28

The boutique store on Monroe Center between Ionia and Ottawa Avenue closed after six years in business.

“We will miss all the wonderful people we have come to know here and this amazing community. You have made this journey memorable and worth every second we were open here in Grand Rapids, MI,” the business posted on Facebook Feb. 12.

The Aroma Labs moved into the vacant storefront, opening its second custom aromatherapy shop in October. The Aroma Labs’ original store is located in Kalamazoo.


Art Caribbean Fusion Cuisine | 55 Monroe Center NW, Grand Rapids

(A July 2020 photo shows Art Caribbean Fusion Cuisine at 55 Monroe Center NW in Grand Rapids.)

Closed: June 21

Billed as downtown Grand Rapids’ first Caribbean restaurant, Art Caribbean Fusion Cuisine looked to build on the success of owner and chef Gilma DeLaCruz’s food truck, El Caribe.

Art Caribbean Fusion Cuisine opened in early July 2020 after a three-month delay tied to the pandemic. A riot downtown also erupted shortly before the restaurant’s opening, and the challenges didn’t stop there.

“It has been a rough year for us,” the business posted on Facebook. “We worked really hard for the success of Art Caribbean Fusion Cuisine. Unfortunately, as we continue with the challenges of the pandemic we are not able to continue to operate with the circumstances.”

El Caribe continues to roam West Michigan, serving up DeLaCruz’s popular dishes.


Big E’s Sports Grill | 710 Monroe Ave. NW, 2325 E. Beltline Ave. SE in Grand Rapids; 121 E. 8th Street in Holland

Closed: Feb. 18

The sports bar’s West Michigan presence was erased earlier this year when the business announced it would be closing three of its four locations.

“With the maximum occupancy remaining at 25% and no indication of when it will increase, we can no longer leave our laid off Team Members waiting in the wings for the hope that someday we can reopen,” the company stated on Facebook in February. “We hope that we can come back again at some point to serve you in some capacity, but are unsure when or how that will be.”

Big E’s Sports Grill’s surviving restaurant is in Midland.


Bliss & Vinegar | Grand Rapids Downtown Market, 435 Ionia Ave. SW

(A 2020 photo shows the sign above Grand Rapids’ Downtown Market.)

Closed: April 25

In April, Bliss & Vinegar announced it would not be renewing its lease at the Downtown Market after being hit “especially hard” by the pandemic.

“We will miss the vibrant community we found downtown,” the business stated on Facebook.

Bliss & Vinegar served up salads, wraps and bowls in the market for about two years. Its original restaurant at 888 Forest Hills Avenue SE in Grand Rapids Township remains open.

Cafe De Miro took over Bliss & Vinegar’s Downtown Market space. The family-owned restaurant began serving up its Kurdish-style Mediterranean food in early December.


The B.O.B. | 20 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids

(A Dec. 3, 2021 photo shows The B.O.B. in downtown Grand Rapids.)

Closed: December 2021

The iconic Big Old Building that houses three restaurants, a brewery, a nightclub and a comedy club shut down the week of Dec. 27 “out of an abundance of caution,” the business announced on Facebook.

Sources earlier told MiBiz The B.O.B. would be shutting down Jan. 1 after more than 24 years in business.

Sales are pending on The B.O.B. and the adjacent GLC at 20 Monroe Live concert venue. Listing agent Ray Kisor told News 8 there are two separate buyers, but he wouldn’t identify their plans for the buildings.

Both deals are expected to close in January.


Charlie’s Shoe Repair | 146 Monroe Center NW, Suite 105, Grand Rapids

(In this Dec. 13, 2021 photo, a “for sale” sign hangs in the window of Charlie’s Shoe Repair, located in downtown Grand Rapids’ McKay Tower.)

Closed: Dec. 13

The McKay Tower mainstay for more than half a century closed earlier this month after sole repairer and owner Peggy VanHouten announced her retirement.

The storefront in the lower level of McKay Tower went up for lease Dec. 13.

Working with rubber and leather for 38 years took a toll on VanHouten’s hands. She said her carpal tunnel worsened to the point that she struggled to grasp some items she used in repairs.

VanHouten said she is “going to try to slow down a bit” while continuing to care for her mother.


Cherry Deli | 834 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids

(An Aug. 30, 2021 photo shows Cherry Deli in Grand Rapids.)

Closed: Sept. 10

The business closed almost a year after owner Scott Schulz suffered debilitating injuries in a car crash. His children made the tough decision to shutter the shop because they were returning to school, staffing was limited and their father needed the money to buy a handicap-accessible home.

Cherry Street Deli was a mainstay in Grand Rapids’ East Hills neighborhood for 17 years. The business was known for wraps and sandwiches named after Grand Rapids landmarks and famous people.


Electric Hero | 125 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids

Closed: May 20

This downtown Grand Rapids sandwich shop served up its last meal nine days after saying goodbye on Facebook.

“We tried to keep this location open, but, unfortunately with the loss of sales due to COVID-19 we had to make this tough decision,” the business stated in the May 11 post.

Electric Hero opened in downtown Grand Rapids in August of 2015.

The good news: fans can still get their fix on the lakeshore, with Electric Hero shops in Holland and Grand Haven.


Family Video | Various locations

Closed: mid-February 2021

One of the last vestiges of the video and DVD rental industry, Family Video announced in January it was closing its last 250 U.S. stores, including more than a dozen in West Michigan.

Changes in technology combined with the COVID-19 pandemic led to the 43-year-old company’s slow slide toward irrelevancy. Business never rebounded after the spring 2020 shutdown.

Highland Ventures LTD is in charge of leasing Family Video real estate.

In August, Gopuff filed for a city permit to renovate the Family Video at 5255 Eastern Ave. in Kentwood for a micro-fulfillment and delivery service. However in December, the Kentwood location was no longer listed on Gopuff’s website.


Ferris Coffee | 40 Pearl St. NW and 227 Winter Ave. NW, Grand Rapids

ferris coffe and nut co property 062117_358090
(An undated image shows the Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. facility at Winter Avenue NW near the YMCA before Grand Valley State University bought the building.)

Closed: March 14 and May 22, respectively

“COVID devastated our business and we had to make a choice to survive,” Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. President John Van Tongeren stated in a May 4 blog announcing the permanent closures.

Ferris Production Manager Evan Groendyk said the shift away from downtown offices to working from home during the pandemic “devastated our sales.”

Terra Bagels opened its shop in the former Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. storefront at 40 Pearl St. NW on Dec. 20.

Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. is working on expanding the retail and café spaces inside its headquarters on Seward Avenue near 7th Street NW. The company’s Holland and Lansing cafés also remain open.


Gino’s East | 248 Broadway St., South Haven

gino's east pizza 040818_1523212758631.jpg
(Photo courtesy: Gino’s East)

Closed: December

Michigan’s lone Gino’s East announced it would be shutting down earlier this month.

“It’s difficult to articulate the amount of gratitude for your patronage over the years, especially during these unprecedented times in the restaurant industry. When we looked to 2022 this was not the plan but we hope you understand this decision was not made easily,” the South Haven restaurant stated in the Dec. 8 post.

Gino’s East opened the South Haven location in 2018.

Fans of the Chicago deep-dish pizza Gino’s East served up will now have to travel at least 120 miles to Chicago to get a slice.


Go Java Coffee | 15 Ionia Ave. SW, Suite 120, Grand Rapids

(An undated courtesy photo from Go Java Coffee shows the storefront at 15 Ionia Ave. SW in Grand Rapids.)

Closed: July 18

After nine years of serving up coffee in downtown Grand Rapids, owners Kelley and Tom Sommers decided to not renew their lease and instead pursue new opportunities and retirement, respectively.

“Happily, we were able to make this decision completely of our own volition, without financial hardship bearing down on us,” they stated in the June 18 announcement posted on Facebook.

The former home of Go Java Coffee has been transformed into a wine shop called Grand Vin, which opened Nov. 9.


J. Gumbo’s Kalamazoo | 3205 S. Westnedge Ave., Kalamazoo

(A file image of J. Gumbo Kalamazoo.)

Closed: Dec. 17

The restaurant that brought the Bayou to Kalamazoo for more than five years served up its final meal earlier this month.

The owners of J. Gumbo’s decided to close due to supply chain issues and other challenges, “each of which continue to take an immeasurable toll on our business and our family,” they stated on Facebook.

This was J. Gumbo’s only location in Michigan, according to the Cajun restaurant chain’s website. The next closest site is more than 260 miles away in Ohio.


Kmart | 15861 W. Michigan Ave., Marshall

(A Jan. 3, 2020 photo shows The Kmart located in Marshall, Mich.)

Closed: November

The last Kmart in Michigan and the Midwest closed last month.

Marshall City Manager Tom Tarkiewicz told News 8 in September he knew the store’s impending closure was “inevitable” after noticing its stock decreasing over the years. But he, too, was disappointed to hear the news, given how there are no remaining national chain stores in the area.

The nearest Kmart now is in New York state, Kmart’s website shows.


Marissa’s Jewels | 125 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids

Closed: May

The shop featuring jewelry made from crystals, fossils and other stones opened in the Ledyard Building in January. It shut down five months later, according to DGRI’s COVID-19 recognition report.

An Etsy account tied to the business says the owner is “taking a short break.”


The Mitten State | 415 Bridge St. NW, Grand Rapids

the-mitten-state 092216_246936

Closed: Feb. 9

The Mitten State’s 1,200-square-foot store near the corner of Bridge Street and Turner Avenue NW opened in 2016. It permanently closed in February, according to Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.’s COVID-19 recognition report. Owner Scott Zubrickas said COVID-19 restrictions within the state and staffing issues led to the closure.

The Mitten State previously operated a store on Wealthy Street in Eastown, but closed that location as planned when its lease expired and the Bridge Street store buildout was finished, according to Zubrickas.

Fans of the Michigan-centric apparel company, which donates a portion of its sales to Michigan causes, can still shop The Mitten State through its website, https://themittenstate.com/. Zubrickas says the brand is also carried by 75 retailers.


Subway | 163 Monroe Ave. NW, Suite 1B, Grand Rapids

Closed: April

According to DGRI’s COVID-19 recognition report, the sub shop closed in April, which was about a month before Rosa Parks Circle across the street closed for renovations.

Grand Rapids is home to about 10 other Subway shops, including another location about a half-mile away on Bostwick Avenue NE.


Osteria Rossa | 16 Monroe Center NE, Grand Rapids

Closing: Dec. 31

When the year ends, so will business at this Italian restaurant downtown.

“Due to these unforeseen times we have had to make the decision to close our doors,” the business stated in a Dec. 28 Facebook post. “We appreciate your continued love and support and hope to see you all at future endeavors.”

Osteria Rossa opened on Monroe Center near Division Avenue on June 4, 2014. The restaurant created by chef Chris Perkey earned eight culinary accolades including being named one of Elite Magazine’s Top Ten Restaurants in Michigan list in 2019.


Sweetie-licious Bake Shoppe | Grand Rapids Downtown Market, 435 Ionia Ave. SW

Closed: Feb. 25

One of the original tenants when the Downtown Market opened in 2013, Sweetie-licious’ homemade pies and desserts were the first thing visitors saw when they walked through the market’s front doors.

Sweetie-licious owner Linda Hundt closed the Grand Rapids bakery to focus on her original shop in DeWitt.

Gaby’s Gourmandise, a French bakery that previously operated at the Fulton Street Farmers Market, took over the space in July.


Taqueria San Jose | 1138 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids

(A Dec. 29, 2021 photo shows Taqueria San Jose on Division Avenue, which is closing its doors on Dec. 31.)

Closing: Dec. 31

The popular taco spot on Division Avenue south of Hall Street is also ending business at the end of the year.

A sign hanging in the window of the business thanked heartbroken customers for 11 years of support.

Owner Juan Barajas told News 8 that on top of 2021 being a tough year, he’s ready to retire.

“I’m too old. I’m the cooker. I do everything else and it’s hard for me, for an old man, it’s hard,” Barajas said.


Tenneco | 200 S. Maple St., Sparta

(A photo from Tenneco’s Facebook page shows the Tenneco factory in Sparta.)

Closed: July

At least 70 people lost their jobs when Tenneco closed Federal-Mogul Piston Rings LLC this summer.

In a letter filed with the state April 30, Tenneco blamed “changing global trends and technical changes within the industry that are dramatically lowering the demand globally for piston ring castings.”

The company said it would move operations done at the Sparta facility to other Tenneco sites.

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