GRAND RAPIDS — Alyson and Mallory Caillaud-Jones were planning to open a bakery in a shared kitchen space when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, causing the sisters instead to search for a singular brick-and-mortar location for their small business.
They soon found what they were looking for in a vacant, nearly century-old building in Grand Rapids’ East Hills neighborhood.
Local small business owner Paul LaGrand purchased the property in April for $695,000, according to city property records. The site includes three ground-floor commercial spaces and apartment units on the second level. Initially used as a drug store in the 1930s, the corner parcel at Eastern Avenue and Wealthy Street on the city’s southeast side is set to be revived for Chartreuse Sisters LLC, the Caillaud-Joneses’ cafe and bakery.
LaGrand said maintaining the property’s historical components will be central to the redevelopment plan.
“It’s an important part of an important neighborhood,” LaGrand told MiBiz. “We want to be careful and do things right, so we’re working with architects and zoning requirements to try to get the building historically and appropriately updated and put back in use. We’re super excited about Chartreuse Sisters’ vision and plans.”
The sisters recently signed a letter of intent to lease the space for their bakery.
After launching the business together in November 2019, the Caillaud-Joneses have been making baked goods from home and selling them throughout the pandemic at pop-up events as well as for pick-up, delivery and custom orders.
“One of the great things about this past year and a half was we had to kind of stop, reassess, and figure out what we wanted to do as a business, who our customers are and what they are interested in,” Alyson Caillaud-Jones said. “This has given us an opportunity to build our menu.”
Between pop-up events and custom orders, the sisters also started offering monthly boxes with an assortment of baked goods. They cap orders at about 30 each month and have been selling out consistently since they started the boxes, Alyson Caillaud-Jones said.
“The boxes change every month,” she said. “It’s a way for us to explore new flavors and see what people like.”
The Caillaud-Joneses spent some of their childhood in their mother’s home country of France, which also influenced their baking techniques.
“We find things that are nostalgic to us that maybe people here don’t know about,” Mallory Caillaud-Jones said.
With a growing business, the sisters are now at capacity for how much they can bake out of their home. They were drawn to the Wealthy Street location after visiting the captivating space with tile floors and an atmosphere reminiscent of a Parisian bakery.
“We grew up in Eastown, not far away from this location, and it was important for us to be in the area as much as possible, in the community where we grew up,” Alyson Caillaud-Jones said.
Chartreuse Sisters also was selected as one of the 100 businesses to participate in Start Garden’s upcoming Demo Day competition on Oct. 2 in which 10 startups receive $20,000 to expand. The Caillaud-Joneses also have been raising money for some of their build-out and equipment costs through online crowdfunding platforms.
“We really want to take the feeling and vibes you get from a European cafe or bistro and make it colorful, warm and welcoming,” Aylson Caillaud-Jones said. “We also want to provide mocktails in proper glassware with garnishes. We would be one of the first dry bars in Grand Rapids, which is not something that really exists yet.”
Built in the 1930s, the Wealthy Street building throughout the years has featured a drug store, auto repair shop, and an appliance, heating and cooling dealer. LaGrand said he and his business partners are working on leases for the other two commercial spaces and are renovating two “really nice apartments” on the second floor.
LaGrand says the mixed-use project with “neighborhood-oriented businesses” fits the city and neighborhood plans for that stretch of Wealthy Street, which has grown in recent years with restaurants, service-oriented businesses and retail stores.
“We’re very committed to being a part of the neighborhood, not just a strip mall kind of thing where anything could go in it,” said LaGrand, whose brother, state Rep. David LaGrand, previously was part of a team that developed the Wealthy Street Bakery a short distance west along Wealthy Street.
Paul LaGrand sees the 800 Wealthy project as “completing or filling a gap” between commercial areas to the east and west on Wealthy Street.
“That corner lot, having been vacant for a while, is like a missing tooth,” LaGrand said. “But with the stuff around it, there’s really good momentum.”
Although LaGrand declined to name his business partners on the redevelopment, he said the “small group” is made up of Grand Rapids residents living on the city’s southeast side. Grand Rapids-based Willink Construction Inc. is serving as the general contractor.
“It’s a building that we have been aware of for years and years,” LaGrand said. “It’s a cool property if you’re nostalgic about what the city used to be.”
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