New spot, same favorites: Beloved Gaia Café reopens in Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids

The new Gaia Cafe on Plainfield Avenue in the Creston neighborhood on Feb. 5, 2021.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — More than six years after shutting down, a Grand Rapids restaurant iconic among vegetarians and vegans is back in business.

Gaia Café reopened Friday at a new location, 1553 Plainfield Ave. NE near Lafayette Avenue, for a limited number of takeout orders.

“With patience, perseverance, vision, and support from all of YOU, we did it,” the business posted on its Facebook page.

“Welcome home Gaia family,” the restaurant added.

The restaurant’s dining room remains closed, so all orders are for carryout. Customers must order online at least $20 worth of food and drinks online and wear a mask when they pick up their order.

The Gaia Cafe menu includes some original favorites, including the Mean Green burrito, veggie hash and Gaia cookies. The cafe features a juice bar, dining area, lounge space and “memory hall” dedicated to the old restaurant. The lower level of Gaia Café is home to a private event space and gallery for the Division Avenue Arts Collective.

The original Gaia Café opened in Grand Rapids’ East Hills neighborhood in the early 1980s, changing hands a couple times before current owner Andrea Bumstead joined the team in 2004. When the restaurant shut down in 2014, Bumstead purchased rights to the business with plans to reopen at the same spot, but she said “it just didn’t work out.”

In 2019, Bumstead announced plans to transform a house in Grand Rapids’ Creston Neighborhood into a new home for Gaia Café.

“I really fell in love with the vibe that this area has. All the building owners are growing their businesses organically and it just seems like the place where Gaia fits in perfectly,” she said in the documentary posted on YouTube. “It’s this little space that nobody really saw a whole lot of hope in, and now it’s kind of becoming this revival that we want to be a part of.”

The house was built in the late 1800s, according to Bumstead. Constructors Incorporated helped her weave elements of the original house into the new restaurant, including wood siding. Bumstead also mixed in old furniture and rugs with newer lighting and fixtures to create Gaia Café.

Construction Incorporated had just installed drywall when the pandemic stalled construction, preventing the restaurant from opening in fall as it had hoped. Since them, Bumstead has shared updates on the project’s progress on Gaia Café’s Instagram page.

Bumstead used crowdfunding, earring and cookie sales to help cover construction costs. The Gaia Café Kickstarter campaign generated more than $32,000 in donations.

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