GRAND RAPIDS — Conklin-based Pux Cider hopes to open its first tasting room in early 2020 in Grand Rapids’ Midtown neighborhood.
The maker of alcoholic ciders has focused on the distribution market since its founding and plans to open its first customer-facing location at 311 Fuller Ave. NE, next door to The Cheese Lady store.
Co-owner Chris Schaefer expects a 5-month to 7-month build-out and licensing process for the tasting room, which will seat about 47 people inside and have a 48-person outdoor patio.
The company’s plans require approvals from the Grand Rapids Planning Commission, which is expected to consider a special land use application for a winery tasting room on Oct. 24, and the Grand Rapids City Commission. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission must also sign off on a tasting room permit for the location.
“This is a starting place for us to open up and expose more people to what we’re doing,” co-owner Andy Schaefer told MiBiz. “It gives us a presence in the market out there.”
Chris Schaefer said along with the additional exposure, the tasting room will allow Pux to showcase its experimental products like single-varietals and “heavy tannins and heavy acid” ciders based on different types of heirloom apples grown at the family’s orchard in Conklin, northwest of Grand Rapids. The company will be able to test new blends and recipes with customers in real time, he added.
The cidery also plans to offer its mainstay brands, which include Whippersnapper, Jak and Ballyhoo, at the tasting room.
The owners of Pux Cider, a dba of Schaefer Cider Co., want to bring some of the aesthetic of the family’s orchard to the new space.
“We have a lot of barrels and apple crates and we’ll utilize that, but in a way that hasn’t already been done,” Chris Schaefer said.
While the cidery initially planned to open a destination tasting room at its centennial farm near the village of Conklin, discussions with Ottawa County’s Chester Township revealed that the company would need to make extensive renovations to its production facility.
The Schaefers hit pause on that seasonal tasting room concept when they got word of an opening at the Green Cane Property LLC-owned facility on Fuller Avenue, which is in the same neighborhood where Chris Schaefer lives.
“The drive-by traffic (in Grand Rapids) will allow us to have something that we can operate year-round,” Andy Schaefer said. “It seems like a good spot that just makes sense.”
Pux Cider, which was first licensed for production in Conklin in April 2016, sold 11,486 liters (3,034 gallons) of cider last year, an increase of about 90 percent from 2017, according to data from the MLCC.
The Schaefers’ project would be the third Grand Rapids-based cidery tasting room in addition to The Peoples Cider Co. (539 Leonard St. NW) and Vander Mill LLC (505 Ball Ave. NE).