Someday soon that iconic black bowling ball atop the towering entry sign to Lakeshore Lanes in Stevensville may become a giant red apple. It would made a dramatic statement about the proposed re-purposing of the long time bowling alley into a hard cider taproom for Peat's Original Cider of Paw Paw.
In what can only be characterized as unprecedented cooperation from a local governmental unit, the Stevensville Village Council tonight helped advance the liquor license application plan for Dan & Leah Peat and Josh & Tiffany Cosner, in a bid to help everyone to complete the deal to purchase the bowling alley property along Red Arrow Highway. The authorization to manufacture hard cider on the property is a major contingency in the purchase agreement, and since the parcel is already properly zoned for that use, the village council elected to help expedite the process to keep the closing on schedule at the end of this month.
The Peats and Cosners, partners in the project, attended the council meeting with the intent of familiarizing village trustees with their plans to craft a taproom out of part of the bowling alley, while also maintaining at least some of the active lanes to complement their drive for a family-friendly entertainment venue alongside their cidery and taproom. They are buying Lakeshore Lanes from Kirk & Janice Wutzke.
Peat's Original Cider was founded two years ago near Paw Paw on Dan Peat's parent's sprawling 200 acre family farm where they grow several varietal apples ideal for the manufacture of their hard ciders. In their first full year of operations they have achieved sales of 5,000 gallons, "right in line with our business plan," says Peat.
They had been in search of a higher traffic, more urban setting for their taproom than the distinctly rural setting of the farm where they currently manufacture all of their cider products. While returning from an event in the Harbor Country neighborhood, they joked first buying Lakeshore Lanes, "because we could turn the bowling ball into an apple," but after turning around in the middle of the road to take a look at the property which has been on the market for a while, they realized it was an ideal situation for a year-round operation rather than something potentially seasonal, had lots of parking, additional expansion options and green space at the back of the property to boot.
As a result, the property immediately vaulted to the top of their consideration list and a deal was struck, contingent upon approvals for the ability to manufacture ciders and perhaps one day wines and craft beers as well on site.
Hoping to gain a wider audience for the Peat's Original Cider product line, the Peats and Cosners pursued the property in earnest and, while the process still has to come to fruition, all are eager, optimistic and excited about honoring the family legacy of Lakeshore Lanes while creating a new one for Peat's Cider.
Josh Cosner points out that, “Hard cider is a beverage category poised for immense growth, while bowling brings people together year round. We love the potential of the location and space because there is so much opportunity for fun activities for adults and kids alike.”
For the past two years, Peat’s Cider has been self-distributing while actively partnering with local restaurants, brewpubs and retailers to sell their product. With no plans to stop those partnerships, opening a taproom is the next step in continuing to hit their ambitious growth targets for their successful product line.
Leah Peat says, “We’ve already started innovating and are excited to bring new cider profiles to the area, including taproom exclusive flavors and collaborations with some of our current craft beverage friends and partners.”
One of those partners was an important cog in tonight's expedited action at the Village Hall. Trustee Chris Mason, a co-owner and founder of Watermark Brewing Company across the street from the Village Hall, suggested taking care of the paperwork on the spot rather than having to wait for a June meeting or the need to call a special meeting to achieve the closing timelines. With the Peat's Original Cider Attorney Brian McMahon also in attendance, everyone put their heads together and accomplished the application process with approvals by the Village contingent upon the Michigan Liquor Control Commission for licensure.
The resolution for Peat's Original Cider to manufacture wine/cider was approved by the Stevensville Village Council, contingent upon attorney review, as is standard procedure.
The Peat’s team has pledged to keep me informed as they move forward, so stay tuned for additional information and plans as things advance in the future.