MILL CREEK MOTORS
When brothers Chip, Bob, and Chuck Newberg saw the auto repair shop on the intersection of West River Drive, Four Mile Road, and Mill Creek Avenue in Comstock Park come up for a bank sale in 2007, they snapped it up.
“We felt there was a need in the community,” said Chip Newberg. “It had been a used car lot and service station, had been closed for about five years.”
Plus all three loved tinkering with cars while growing up, and owning an auto repair and sales garage would be a kind of extra-curricular activity for them.
“We always did as much of our own auto repair as we good growing up in the 60’s, 70’s because we couldn’t afford to take (our cars) to a garage,” said Newberg. “What turned us into this end of it, our kids were getting to the age they were needing cars. There seems to be a used (car) market for kids that we could take advantage of and help some people.”
The folks at Mill Creek Motors service and sell used cars, all makes and models. Newberg said the shop is “not a major repair shop,” but they do work on brake and exhaust systems. They won’t pull your engine and replace it, but they will do a tune up and change your oil.
There has been several auto repair stations and car lots at the 3867 West River Drive location over the years. While it was vacant, some larger car lots in the area used the lot as a secondary storage sight, said Newberg. He said the location at the intersection was a factor when he and his brothers purchased the building and lot.
“It’s a very busy location, lots of traffic,” he said. “It’s close to the expressway, easy on/easy off, easy to find.”
The brothers own the approximately 2500 square foot building and the lot. They use about 2000 square foot of the space for their auto repair business, renting the rest to River City Motors that sells utility vans. They employ one full-time mechanic, who is Chip’s brother-in-law. They don’t keep an inventory of cars they sell but head-hunt for customers looking for a specific kind of car. Advertising is mainly through word of mouth and the signage on the busy intersection.
Chuck and Chip also own Studio 2 Dental that produces high tech dental restorations in Kentwood. Bob works for a company that installs pace makers. He does the programming of the pace makers after they are implanted.
Chip said they like the small community, neighborhood, and friendly feel of the Comstock Park area.
“We seem to see the same people over and over again,” he said, adding that even when their regular customers buy a new car, it’s going to need some kind of a repair eventually. “We just like interacting with the customers, talking to people.”
The brothers grew up on Grand Rapids’ West side. Chip now lives in Belmont, Bob lives in Spring Lake, and Chuck lives in Rockford.
SPECIATION ARTISAN ALES
Speciation Artisan Ales has opened a tasting room. The niche brewery, located at 3721 Laramie St. in downtown Comstock Park, expanded into the 2000 square foot suite attached to the original production facility, and now occupies 5000 square feet. The brewery, which opened in January 2017, was originally open just one day a month for customers to pick up their orders of new bottle releases.
“That was definitely a good way to start,” said owner Matt Ermatinger. “But it became clear that a lot of our customers wanted a place to hang out and enjoy our beer with like-minded folks.
“The response has been great so far,” said Ermatinger. “Everyone that comes in really enjoys the ambiance and the excellent customer service…also the beer!”
Ermatinger noted that the brewery is a little hard to find, and “the key now is to figure out how to get people to go a little out of the way to enjoy our tasting room.”
There’s a cooler with bottles for in house consumption and a rack of to-go bottles next to it. Speciation Ales doesn’t have a food license, but cheeses and salami are available for snacks. Customers can also bring their own food and can order out for delivery to the brewery.
Ermatinger hired additional people, including one from the Grand Rapids Community College brewing program, to staff the tasting room and keep up with increased production. There are now nine staff members including Ermatinger and his wife Whitney.
Ermatinger said a lot of thought went into transforming “a relatively dull industrial suite into a comfortable and inviting space to enjoy the beer right in the middle of where it’s made.” Speciation Ales brews a unique barrel-aged farmhouse, wild beer, and sour ale, Ermatinger said he wanted the tasting room to reflect the rustic character of the beer. The room is surrounded by barrels of aging beer on two walls with long wooden tables and benches in the center. There are a couple of large beer barrels with bar chairs to sit at. The sixteen foot long bar is a chic, polished copper layer over cement. There’s room for about 44 people.
The word speciation means “the formation of a new and distinct species through the course of evolution.” Ermatinger said all the beers and their names are themed after evolution and biology such as Thread of Life and Genetic Drift.
The tasting room is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m. and Sunday 12 to 6 p.m.