KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Gold Founder and President Steve Jbara has many titles but being owner of the Kalamazoo-based Green Door Distilling Company is one that is very special to him.
“I went to school in Kalamazoo,” Jbara said. “Josh Cook, who is the founder of Green Door, was one of my close friends in high school. So, I got involved when he started the company way back and continued to increase the investment over time.”
The latest chapter of his investment happens to involve an old friend and business partner from when the Gold was the Drive. In this case, finding the best offense is going with someone who’s known for his best defense.
Ben Wallace’s resume is nothing short of iconic: NBA champion, four-time All-Star, four-time Defensive Player of the Year, his No. 3 retired by the Pistons, and the first undrafted player in modern NBA history inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, among other awards and highlights.
While his playing days may be over, Wallace’s business career is far from finished.
“For me, the biggest thing is having an opportunity to do something different with my life,” Wallace said. “Once you think you got it made in one business, another business opportunity opened up.”
Wallace’s name is not just confined to the rafters at Little Caesars Arena or the Pistons front office these days. Around 138 miles away from Detroit, Green Door Distilling recently announced the NBA icon is adding his name to their ownership group.
“I’ve been playing professional basketball for 16 years. Now, working with Steve and these guys, giving (me) an opportunity to do something different. … Once they brought an opportunity to me, I jumped for it,” Wallace said.
“(Wallace) has really good vision. And he can see things that I might have been too close to at the time to recognize,” Jbara said. “He’s really, really good at goal setting and seeing things … that can really help the business.”
Jbara said some of that vision will focus on the distillery’s distribution, tasting room experience for patrons and involving more business partners. But for Wallace, the bottom line is an unwavering hunger for success — from undrafted, to inductee, to entrepreneur.
“We always say there’s a draft every year. They’re bringing in new players every year, so you had to stay hungry to stay ahead of the pack. The same thing with business. … You always got to stay hungry, keep your eye on the next prize and never settle,” Wallace said.
Wallace added that Kalamazoo reminds him of the supportive, close-knit community of his hometown in Alabama and alluded to the awards Green Door won over the last couple of years.
The company is teasing a Ben Wallace-themed product but did not go into detail. It is expected to launch sometime this summer.