GRAND RAPIDS, MI — In 2021, as Steve Vander Pol and Brandon Voorhees searched for a new headquarters for Eastern Kille Distillery, they wanted to recreate the energy found at distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and capitalize on Michigan’s outdoor beauty.
Two years later, they’re preparing to bring that vision to life.
The owners of the Grand Rapids-based distillery, known for its small batch whiskey, are hosting a groundbreaking Wednesday for Eastern Kille’s new headquarters on 16 wooded acres at 7755 Childsdale Ave. NE in Plainfield Township.
Located just south of Rockford, the new space will boast an indoor dining room, an outdoor patio, and a backyard area with firepits and cafe lighting, Vander Pol said. A pathway will connect the building to the White Pine Tail, which borders the headquarters to the west and north.
“We’ve worked really hard on trying to develop an environment that’s going to be worth the trip,” said Vander Pol, who also drew inspiration from outdoor-focused spots such as Farm Club and Hop Lot Brewing Co. near Traverse City.
More outdoor seating and firepits further into the woods could be added if there’s customer demand for it.
The project is expected to cost about $4.2 million.
Eastern Kille Distillery was founded in 2016 as Gray Skies Distillery but changed its name following a trademark dispute. The distillery’s current headquarters is located at 700 Ottawa Ave. NW in downtown Grand Rapids. The company is moving after it sold its property to Corewell Health (formerly Spectrum Health) for $3.8 million.
Corewell bought the property for a new administrative office complex it’s building in the area.
In an interview, Vander Pol said the sale gave him and Voorhees an opportunity to “hit reset” on the business. The idea, he said, was to “replicate and improve upon” what they had been doing in Grand Rapids for the past six or seven years.
The new headquarters will also give the two an opportunity to emulate distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail that seek to “introduce people to whiskey in a really fun environment,” as well as to tie their offerings to a natural environment with an outdoor cocktail garden.
The new, larger headquarters, which has seating for 104 people, will also include a kitchen with a menu focused on Neapolitan-style pizzas. An expanded production area is planned as well.
Today, the company has about 500 barrels of whiskey aging — the oldest is seven years, the youngest is a couple weeks — at any time. Once the expansion is complete, Eastern Kille expects to have about 2,000 barrels aging at any time.
“A big part of making world class whiskey is aging it appropriately, and this is going to allow us to have more barrels in reserve to age longer and extend our brand into whiskeys that are seven, eight, nine, ten years old,” Vander Pol said.
As of now, most of the whiskey the distillery sells is aged between three years and five years.
“What it means for us is the opportunity to hopefully drive more traffic to our location, talk about our process for making whiskey and what it means to us to make a Michigan bourbon, and also to continue to evolve what our bourbon profile looks like,” he said.
Eastern Kille sells two types of whiskey, Straight Bourbon and Straight Rye, as well as Barrel Finished Gin, Coffee Liquer and American Dry Gin. Its products can be found at about 600 retail locations throughout the state, including all Meijer stores in Michigan, Vander Pol said.
The distiller also produces other in-house spirits for its cocktail lounge, including silver rum, spiced rum, barrel aged rum, an Agave spirit (similar to tequila), and more. In addition to its current downtown Grand Rapids headquarters, the company also has a cocktail lounge at 634 Wealthy St. SE in Grand Rapids.
Vander Pol said the new headquarters, which is located in Plainfield Township, is expected to open by October.
“It’s an opportunity to achieve our goal, which has always been to create world class whisky in West Michigan,” he said.
News Source : MLive.com