By Dana Kroll, Uptown Marketing and Communications Specialist
Ready, set, flip the sand timer: It’s time for the next installation in our series, and for this one, we chitchat with Margaret Kleist, Uptown Expert Interviewee #4, and owner of Blue Bridge Games. Established in 2019, her shop is nestled in amidst the quaint businesses of our East Fulton District. Its logo may look familiar to those who know our city well, as it takes its design cue from the locally famous blue bridge that spans the Grand River, connecting our city’s east and west halves.
We think this geographical cue is a clever one, as the shop has become a key destination for table game enthusiasts from all over the region and state, and beyond. Whether you’re looking give something new a try at the next casual family game night, or you’re a serious gamer who seeks an immersive experience into the world of board games, card games, role-playing games, tabletop entertainment, and more, Blue Bridge is no roll of the dice – it’s a sure thing. And with so much to choose from in the shop, you certainly won’t be board, either. Margaret has limitless game knowledge, a deeply kind spirit, and will make sure that a visit to her store is a fun experience for all her guests.
Now, if you’re game (alright, last pun, we promise), let’s delve into what she suggests for where to go, when you’re in Uptown next, shall we? Here we go:
You have a free afternoon, where are you going for happy hour or lunch?
“Uptown definitely does not fall short in experiences to pursue here. One of my favorites is Wax Poetic, which is a candle bar down in Eastown. They have a whole candle studio where you can go in and mix your own scents, pick out your own container, and then go pop over and have lunch at one of the great local places while your candle sets up, and then you go back and pick it up the same day.
So, from Wax Poetic, I’d probably pop over to my favorite sandwich place, which is Schnitz Deli, down here on east Fulton, a long-time institution here in Grand Rapids, very beloved, their sandwiches are delicious, and they have a bakery right next door too. So, yeah, those would be my two highlights for a free afternoon.”
Wax Poetic Candle Bar, located at 1423 Lake Drive, offers a fabulously unique and creative way to spend your next afternoon or evening outing with a group, with a partner, or with yourself! This DIY candle-making shop is as though a hipster coffee bar and a sleek apothecary lab mashed together into one cool space. You are given complete artistic license here, from choosing one signature scent or curating a one-of-a-kind blend from the hundreds of available oils and essences, to selecting from a wide array of beautiful vessels into which your candle will be poured. The Wax Poetic team takes it from there to turn your special, bespoke fragrance into your own custom soy wax candle.
Schnitz Deli: We agree with Margaret. A visit to Uptown is hardly complete without a stop at “The Schnitz”.
You have a sweet tooth, where are you going for dessert?
“I would grab friends and head to Brewery Vivant for their chocolate board. They have an excellent pastry chef who changes it up regularly and it’s always some variation of vanilla, dark, milk chocolate, and it’s ALL chocolate ALL the time, so that’s my go-to.”
Brewery Vivant is one of Grand Rapid’s most well-known and respected beer microbreweries, and given our title of Beer City USA, that’s no small feat. Initially focused on the creation of Belgian-style beers, the brewery has greatly expanded its menu to include a variety of European style pours, fruit beers, and rotating special seasonal offerings too, plus an award-winning menu of unique gastronomic eats that are just as awesome as the beers – as evidenced by Margaret’s recommendation to visit for the CHOCOLATE, alone! This East Hills space is a beautiful example of thoughtful design, as it highlights the best that both history, and modernity, have to offer. The building’s last life was as a funeral home, sturdily constructed with a nod towards early 20th century gothic style (the backdrop of the main pub’s bar is still referred to by its original name – ‘The Chapel’). Upon taking ownership, The BV team got to work and turned their “new” old space into one that is both LEED and B-Corp Certified, and it is the very first commercial microbrewery to earn these gold-standard certifications, in the world. Learn more about that, here. 925 Cherry St. SE.
You have a new neighbor, where are you getting a gift for them?
“There are so many great stores around Uptown for gift giving, a couple that would make my shortlist would be Art of the Table down on Wealthy. They have tons of unique kitchen gadgets; they also have a great selection of spirits and wines which always make great housewarming gifts. Another place I love is right over here on Diamond called Global Infusion and they have a super eclectic mix of homeware stuff that you’ll never find anywhere else along with a huge tea selection. So, I find a lot of things for new folks at those two stores.”
Art of the Table is a culinary specialty shop + boutique-sized gourmet grocer and is one of Uptown GR’s longest-standing and most beloved independent businesses. Here you’ll find everything from high-end cookware, utensils, serve ware, barware, textiles, and more; plus, a stunning assortment of cheese, pasta, marinades, aperitifs, snacks, adult beverages, and truly more goodies than we could ever possibly list in one article. Looking to make deliciously memorable moments soon, in a kitchen near you? Go no further than Art of the Table to find all the things you need. Located at 606 Wealthy St. SE.
Global Infusion makes its home alongside many other small businesses in the East Hills Blackport Building. A quaint and cozy teahouse + marketplace, this business is one with a global mission. Their offerings focus on products sourced from companies that are rooted in social and environmental sustainability. They sell a variety of goods: Everything from housewares and home decor, jewelry and apparel, and more – and all with a colorful, bohemian flare. There’s also lots of great stuff for the kitchen, like bulk teas and herbs, specialty consumables, fairtrade chocolate and more. The best part is, you can sip while you shop. We recommend the from scratch, house-brewed Global Infusion chai tea that they are famous for. It’s so popular that the shop sells growlers of concentrate, so you can make your own cup at home when the next craving hits. 143 Diamond Ave SE.
Someone’s new to town, where are you sending them next?
“So, after you’ve visited us here at Blue Bridge a lot of times we get recommendations like “where can I go to grab a bite to eat?” and our new favorite to recommend is Black Napkin, which is a brand new burger and sandwich joint that opened up here on East Fulton and Diamond. I say brand new, though I think they’re like several months old now! They’ve got smash burgers, to-die-for French fries, and great chicken sandwiches. I definitely recommend folks check out Black Napkin for lunch or dinner. And then the other place that I recommend folks check out is Harmony brewing, down in Eastown, not only for their excellent beer and pizza but they also host a really vibrant event calendar. So, every night of the week they’ve got something different to offer guests who come in. Euchre, trivia, and we help with a board game night down there on Tuesdays, so it really ends up being kind of a neat way to get connected with neighbors and kind of linked in with your community.”
Standing boldly on the corner of Fulton and Diamond, with its vibrant and eye-catching storefront, is Black Napkin, a self-described mom-n-pop joint, but this is one with a twist. While at first glance, the menu may look like standard takeout fare, we implore you – do not sleep on this grub. The burgers are done in the popular ‘smashburger’ style and are so juicy that even a photo will make your mouth water. You will also find crispy tender chicken sandos, hand-cut and -battered fries, inventively flavored housemade popsicles, and daily specials that will blow your mind. 966 Fulton St. SE.
Harmony Brewing Company, is another of our city’s most prominent breweries, likely because there is truly something for everyone, here. There’s Harmony’s own proprietary roster of brews and ciders, plus a full bar that offers wine and spirits as well. The menu offers upscale spins on first rate pub fare, and they are most famous for their brick-fired pizzas, pretzels, and breadsticks. As Margaret mentioned, the events calendar is one of the most flourishing in town and constantly rotates from live music, to trivia night, vinyl night, game night, and so much more. The space is gracious and cozy all at once, with funky and eclectic indoor seating, plus a dog-friendly patio that is perfectly situated where Wealthy Street and Lake Drive meet which is arguably the very heart of our Eastown business district. Find them at 1551 Lake Drive SE.
What do you love about being in Uptown?
“My favorite thing about being in Uptown are my neighbors. Business neighbors and the customers we get to see every day. It’s so nice to have both homes and residences really close in but also have so many other businesses that sort of buoy the community around you. So, it’s my neighbors.”
We loved chatting with Margaret and hope that you enjoy her hot takes as much as we did! For a revisit of all of our interviews in this series thus far, you can head to our Instagram page; to jump directly to today’s interview with Margaret, simply click here.
Whether it’s an upscale night out, a casual day of strolling and shopping, or a brunch date with friends, Uptown always has something exciting to offer. Uptown consists of four vibrant districts: Eastown, East Fulton, East Hills and Wealthy Street that are full of character and personality. Whether you are visiting us for the first time or the hundredth, there is so much in our district for you to explore and enjoy. Plan your next visit to Uptown today.