GRAND RAPIDS — Brothers Chris and Andy Schaefer managed through cost overruns and construction delays during the COVID-19 pandemic and recently opened their new Pux Cider Taphouse in the city’s Midtown neighborhood.
The now yearlong pandemic caused minor pivots from the company’s original plan, but the project makes good on years of conceptual work to bring the family’s fermented apple varieties into a public taproom setting.
The Schaefers — along with their dad, John, and uncle, Mark — operate a 300-acre apple farm as Schaefer Cider Co. LLC in Conklin in the northeastern corner of Ottawa County near Sparta.
Chris Schaefer says the farm’s dozens of apple cultivars — including Kingston Black, which he calls the “holy grail of cider apples” — set the company apart from other cideries.
“We’re pretty lucky we get to play with all of these apple cultivars and use them in our cider,” Schaefer said.
Pux had a soft opening in early March to test out the bar’s operations while the grand opening was March 11 with 12 ciders on draft. The taproom doesn’t have a kitchen, but Schaefer said a food truck might be considered. The taproom is also located next to The Cheese Lady, with cider and cheese pairings to follow.
“It makes you feel like a millionaire when you eat cheese and drink cider,” Schaefer quipped.
The Schaefers’ Conklin property is an ancestral orchard that’s been in the family for 160 years. Ten years ago, they started “growing old school apples” and making hard cider. Cider production scaled up about five years ago while distribution came a few years later.
The company planned a taproom for the next phase of its evolution, but the project proved cost-prohibitive at the Conklin farm.
“We said, ‘Let’s look for some place in the city,’” Schaefer said, settling on the building at 311 Fuller Ave. NE two years ago.
The Schaefers originally planned to open the taproom in April 2020 before the pandemic hit and halted construction to the facility. Multiple unforeseen cost overruns — including a new air filtration system required by the city — led to a roughly $75,000 total buildout in the 1,300-square-foot space. They’ve also added about 800 square feet of outdoor patio space in front of the taproom.
Schaefer continues to split his time between the taproom and the farm. The taproom’s name is a “modernized” adaptation of the character Puck in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — a character Schaefer described as “the ne’er-do-well troublemaker.”