Raising spirits: Couple opens distillery in former funeral home

If the idea of turning a former funeral home into a distillery sounds a bit unusual, think again. Or stop in and have a drink.

Kyle Brady and his partner, April, have transformed a former funeral home – a landmark business in Menominee for decades – into a welcoming and cheerful destination known as Spirit House. 

While many older buildings in communities across the Upper Peninsula are being transformed into new uses – theaters into restaurants, banks into coffee shops – this endeavor might raise some eyebrows. Still, the couple is among the many entrepreneurs across the U.P. bringing new businesses to aging downtown cores.

The entrance to Spirit House in Menominee. Photo: Ann DallmanThe aptly named Spirit House welcomes guests with a blazing fire, soft music playing in the background and stylish velvet loveseats – and hand-crafted cocktails and spirits made in the garage-turned-distillery. The ambiance invites relaxation and comfort, or as one customer described it, “where the modern pays homage to the past.”

“It took us thirteen months to remodel this building. We let the room’s feel tell us the direction we should go thus we didn’t go modern or sleek,” April says. “We tried to make it cozy with intimate seating.

“The two of us basically bootstrapped this business. Towards the end, when we were getting ready for our soft opening, our friends stepped in and really helped us,” she adds.

Spirit House opened in late September in the former Anderson-Kell Funeral Home, which was in business for six decades and had been for sale for more than a year. Anderson-Kell has been so well known in the Menominee area that the couple had numerous drop-in visitors during their remodeling process as people thought the building was still functioning as a funeral home. 

For the couple, a distillery in a former funeral home works well. They embraced their entrepreneurial spirit to bring their dream to fruition and have made playful use of the building’s history. Their introduction on Facebook reads, “As a Funeral Home turned Distillery we know a thing or two about spirits ...”  Their Facebook ads include the line “Come raise your spirits.”

The distillery’s name, a play on words reflecting both the building’s past and present, was a joint effort with their Detroit-based graphic designer, Allison Gardner-Hurthibise.

“She’s a friend of a friend. We tried out at least 30 other names and wanted something tied to the site’s history without being macabre,” April says.

Among the welcoming seating areas at the Spirit House. Photo: Ann DallmanThe couple, who met in Marinette, Wisconsin, has revamped the first floor as the main bar with a variety of seating areas. Velveteen-upholstered armchairs, tufted leather bar stools, leather club chairs and small circular tables are scattered throughout the first floor. Oversize game boards hang on the walls as does a large wooden map with pins to mark the “home bases” of those who have visited the distillery.

A corner area in the main room features merchandise available for purchase -- hats, flannels, quilted jackets, T-shirts and tank tops. 

“We want to provide a space for everyone. Our guests are a little bit of everything. We had a group from Texas here a few days ago. They were able to spread out or, if they chose, to bump elbows with their friends,” April says.

Currently, the distillery is open for limited hours Thursday through Saturday, but the couple plans to expand days once they have a secure pipeline of spirits available.

The distillery is the culmination of Brady’s passion for crafting cocktails and making other alcoholic beverages. 

Kyle Brady Photo: Ann Dallman“Kyle is super talented and has been making wine and brewing beer for years and it was time for him to take those hobbies out of the garage. Here he’s able to distill rum, whiskey, vodka, gin and some liqueurs. We have a waiting list for his coffee liqueur. He brews in small batches,” April says. 

The Spirit House’s drinks menu is varied and everything is made in-house. They’re also sourcing some ingredients locally.

“We like to use local ingredients in our cocktails and spirits. The 35th & Martini is a collaboration with 35th & Coffee, a Menominee coffee shop, and features their fresh roast espresso. We add in our vodka and a shot of coffee liqueur, shaken to perfection and topped with three roasted coffee beans,” April says. 

She describes this concoction as “smooth, complex and packing a big punch, perfect for a night-time pick-up.” 

Among the popular cocktails is their version of a dirty martini known as Snake Eyes. “We make it with olive juice and vodka, no vermouth. Our hot chocolate, with amaretto and orange, is also very popular. In the winter months, we’ll serve hot drinks and, in the summer, ice cream drinks such as an adult root beer float,” April says.

Adds Brady, “Each alcohol (drink) is made a little differently but [for whiskey], the first step is in the distilling, essentially like brewing beer. You let the mash sit and wait for the yeast to extract the sugars from the grain. Once the sugars are consumed, ‘cuts’ are made which divide the alcohol.

“Of the three cuts, you only use the ‘hearts,’ which contain the ideal flavor profile that you want to bottle. Coming off the still, you may have 100 proof or more alcohol so later you will cut the alcohol with purified water to reduce the alcohol down to table strength,” he adds.

A recent book event featured fantasy authors. Photo: Ann DallmanSince opening, Spirit House has partnered with other businesses to offer community events, including tarot readings, live music and a book sale. The Booze N’ Books event was held in conjunction with The Book Nook, a Menominee book store. Local fantasy authors sold and autographed their books as well as spooky merchandise. 

“We would love to host special events once a month. We plan to offer “Yoga with Sally” (Sally Van Eyck of Marinette) on Sundays very soon. Sundays are good days for rest and rejuvenation,” April says.

The couple is grateful for the support from friends, the community and others since their opening and the positive responses.

“The city of Menominee’s building inspector was great. Personnel from the Menominee Health Department were terrific. They did walk-throughs and really worked to educate you. They were truly helpful. And Farmers & Merchants Bank, Marinette, was wonderful,” April says. 

The Spirit House is open from 4 p.m. - 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays. Additional hours are available for special events. The Spirit House will be open on Thanksgiving Day. 

Additional information is available on Facebook (updated often) and by contacting them at: info@spirithouse.com.

Ann Dallman has lifelong roots in Michigan’s UP. She started out as a newspaper reporter/photographer and returned to journalism after retiring from teaching. Her first Middle Grade novel, Cady and the Bear Necklace, received a State History Award (Books/Youth) from the Historical Society of Michigan as well as a Midwest Book Award, New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, was a Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist and a UP Notable Book. Her second book, Cady and the Birchbark Box, also received the Historical Society of Michigan State Award, is also a UP Notable Book and was a finalist in the New Mexico-Arizona 2023 Book Awards. 
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