ZEELAND – An unexpected partnership formed during the COVID-19 pandemic will bring a new restaurant to downtown Zeeland.
It all started when restaurant owner Teresa Vander Zwaag of The Farmhouse and her husband, Tim, began looking for a venue for private events, where their customers could enjoy small parties and social distancing.
They approached Shane Hammer – current owner of Frank’s restaurant and great-grandson of founders Frank and Mary Dionise, who opened the business in 1924.
The restaurateurs did not know each other, but Hammer faced his own problems. Hours at Frank’s were limited to curbside orders, and the nearby banquet hall — renovated in 2013 — sat unused at 136 E. Main Ave. Glad to have someone in space, a partnership was born.
Together the team worked to reopen Frank’s. Hammer needed personnel, so Vander Zwaag stepped in. They brought back Frank’s “legendary” lunch hour, six days a week. During their time as partners, Vander Zwaag and Hammer began dreaming of a more permanent use of the nearby banquet space.
Vander Zwaag purchased the liquor license at the outgoing Elbow Room restaurant and began the transfer process at 136 E. Main. From now on, a new restaurant will be born in space.
According to Vander Zwaag, the restaurants will have different names and addresses, but will share a restroom, hallway and kitchen. They will also share a menu, although customers won’t find alcohol at the original Frank’s restaurant.
Once the city gives Vander Zwaag permission to use his liquor license, she said, it will begin training staff. But the move to a full-service restaurant won’t be immediate.
Because the building has been used as a private banquet venue for years, the partners made the decision to honor ongoing reservations. The new business will open in a “phased approach”, with limited hours and a mobile bar and furniture to accommodate existing parties. Future phases will include a more comprehensive construction with permanent facilities and regular hours.
Vander Zwaag hopes to hold a grand opening this spring or summer. The new restaurant will have “Frank’s” in the title, but an official name has yet to be announced. For now, the space is called Frank’s East.
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Frank’s menu includes soup, grilled cheese, burgers, fries and sandwiches.
The addition of another restaurant in downtown Zeeland is particularly exciting for planners and locals alike, as the city strives to add restaurants and retailers to empty storefronts along the main avenue. If approved for his liquor license, Frank’s East may be eligible to join the social district of Zeeland.