All it takes is a couple of bros, the right location and the right concept to open a restaurant together in under 18 days.
At least that’s what Chris Slocum and Mark Nieuwenhuis, longtime friends and coworkers, accomplished when they came upon the former New York BBQ restaurant on 806 Riverview Dr.
“We’ve wanted to open a restaurant together for a long time,” says Slocum, who adds the pair’s friendship dates back to high school. “We couldn’t have asked for a better fit. We see what’s happening on the Eastside, and it’s very positive. There’s a lot of up and comers. And we thought this was the perfect spot.”
Burger Bros, a quick-serve restaurant located in the 13/12 Grocery, Beer and Liquor Store plaza, has a simple menu consisting of Angus beef hand-pattied burgers, no-hormone and no-antibiotic chicken and pork sandwiches, veggie burgers, and fries.
The burgers come with 19 different free topping choices, and a few premium options, such as bacon, homemade cheese sauce, jalapeno cheese sauce and chili sauce, for a surcharge. Burgers and chicken sandwiches start at $4, and fries at $2.
“We want to have a good product, and we also want to create a culture,” Slocum says. “We want people to come in and say I want a Double Bro, or I want a Brostyle with a tomato. It’s really catching on fast.”
Burgers, both friends say, was a natural choice for fare. “I love burgers, Mark loves burgers. My wife and our kids love burgers,” says Slocum. “We said, ‘Let’s do burgers.’”
So far, customers seem to agree. The Feb. 8 Grand Opening, which wasn’t advertised except through an article in the Kalamazoo Gazette
, drew lines out the door. Three days later, Burger Bros already had its first self-confirmed regular, Slocum says.
“There’s nothing like this on this side of town,” says Niuwenhuis, who is not new to restaurant operations as owner of Kelvin & Co. on West Main, and opening another Kelvin & Co. in March on 1450 Wealthy Street SE in Grand Rapids. “The Eastside is up and coming and we want to be a part of it.”
The Burger Bros menu is based on a simple concept of burgers, fries and toppings.
To support Eastside growth, the restaurant is donating a portion of its profits to the Eastside Neighborhood Association, they say, though that is still being formalized. “When I was younger, I always came down here,” says Slocum. “I know the Eastside community, and it’s an awesome community.”
The restaurant, mostly take-out, though those who prefer can eat at a shelf bar or tall table, answers a neighborhood need for food variety in the neighborhood. In addition to Eastside residents, Burger Bros is drawing patrons from around the county, as well as from Ascension Borgess Hospital and other Eastside employees.
Pat Taylor, Director of the Kalamazoo Eastside Neighborhood Association, who has long been advocating for new Eastside restaurants, is excited about the new dining option.
“I’m thinking it will be a nice addition to the neighborhood and good partnership as far as neighbors,,” says Taylor, who has met both owners. “It’s not another BBQ place. It’s an in-and-out type of family place. It’s a fun place.”
Residents who have visited Burger Bros have expressed appreciation for it, says Taylor. “But they still want the coffee shop and the sit-down place. We will continue to work on that.”
Restaurant hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Both Slocum and Nieuwenhuis consider themselves “hands-on owners.”
“We like to be involved in our store and our community,” says Slocum. “We want to know what’s going on.” So you are likely to meet one of the two if you visit the store. Currently the restaurant employs eight workers, four full-time and four part-time.
“This community is really embracing us. They’re happy we’re here,” says Slocum. “We’re reasonably priced, we’re fresh, and all the ingredients are high quality. Anywhere, I think that means a lot.”