GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One of the oldest storefronts in Grand Rapids’ historic district has a new owner with new plans.
MJW Real Estate Holdings LLC bought J. Gardella’s Tavern for $1.1 million, city property sale records show. The deal for the building at 11 Ionia Ave. SW closed on Dec. 6.
MJW Real Estate Holdings LLC is operated by Michael Winks, who also works as president of lending and retail banking at Northpointe Bank. His investment is not connected to Northpointe Bank.
Winks plans to renovate the building on Ionia Avenue SW near West Fulton Street and launch a new bar and restaurant concept. He says J. Gardella’s liquor license has already been conditionally transferred to his new business.
While he’s not ready to elaborate on the plans yet, Winks said the business will utilize all three levels of the building. He said the restaurant will have a totally different look and feel while honoring the character of the historic building.
Winks tells News 8 that while he’s the investor, a local operator will run the restaurant under another LLC registered to Winks: Rooted Fox Ventures. Winks said he’s excited about the partnership but is not quite ready to announce who it’s with.
Winks said he’s working with architects and restaurant equipment suppliers now but renovations haven’t started yet. He expects to open the new restaurant next year, if the supply chain runs smoothly.
Winks said he’s been considering buying J. Gardella’s Tavern since February, after learning that another buyer who planned to open The Meat Up Gastropub had backed out. That buyer, Elizabeth Rosario, told News 8 last year she scrapped the plans because of the uncertainty for downtown businesses in a changing market during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Rabideau brothers owned and operated J. Gardella’s for approximately 24 years before the business closed last year.
The tavern was named after the late John Gardella, a former loan manager at Aquinas College Credit Union who gave the owners their first business loan. Gardella passed away in January at the age of 89, according to his online obituary.
The Grand Rapids History Center found the first reference to the building at 11 Ionia Ave. SW in the early 1880s primarily as a home, according to historian Tim Gloege.
In 1886, the lower portion of the building became a saloon and arcade before shifting into a wholesale fruit business in the 1910s. A decade later, the building transformed into a wholesale confectioner’s, bakers and ice cream equipment supplier. In the 1940s and 50s, the storefront sold wholesale appliances, according to Gloege.