You would be hard pressed to find a better culinary corner, tucked into a residential neighborhood, than Union and Lyon in Heritage Hill.
Many years ago, when I first moved to Grand Rapids from the frontier town of Allegan, I lived on College St. A short walk to Martha’s Vineyard was all that was needed for the basic staples of bachelor sustenance. It was a terrific neighborhood party and convenience store. Fast forward a decade (still back in the day but no longer part of the Heritage Hill scene) I had a good friend who was mentoring me on the world of wine. He told me, if you want to learn about wine, there is only one place to go in Grand Rapids and that is Martha’s Vineyard.
I remember the day well when I took him up on the offer. We took a long lunch and ventured to Martha’s Vineyard with my personal objective to learn more about wine and to place an order for the biggest party of the century, the mother-of-all–parties …New Year’s Eve 1999. The wine expert we met with with was non other than Kameel, owner of Martha’s. He greeted us at the door and escorted us up the spiral staircase (which I did not even know existed) to the wine loft and preceded to engage us with tales of the vine. A memorable experience and besides being extremely knowledgeable, he was good salesman as I ended up buying a case of fairly expensive champagne to give to friends on New Years Eve.
January 30, 2009, Grand Rapid. I pick my daughter up from theater class at the Civic and decide to buy a bottle of wine and some bread for dinner. It was a rough day. Wine and bread seem appropriate. I remember Martha’s is nearby and decide to stop in on my way home. Martha’s had become less of a destination for me and it was many years since I stopped in. I parked, walked in and was blown away.
Paradise found. A spectacular vision. Cheesecake and dessert counter to my left. Further along was a deli-case of specialty sausages, ham, salami and cheeses and many “take-home” staples of deli cases like hummus, dips, and salads. As I moved forward there was a wall of premium liquors, humidors of cigars and coolers and coolers of specialty beers. The pièce de résistance of course was the wine selection.
Of course there are many specialty stores like this in the area. But not really. I have never been in a store where everyone that was working was so “happy”. Not goofy happy, but happy to be of service. Without a hint of being overbearing I had several employees ask me if I needed help, make some recommendations and be of good cheer. It has been a LONG time since I had such a genuine, positive retail experience. After checking out, I then stopped next door at Nantucket Bakery, a sister store with pizza, breads, soups and desserts. Much smaller but with the same size heart.
So there you go. One corner, two stores and a four-star experience.
One other thing that I admire…a fine website!