Lowell Beer Store is now Showboat Spirits
Under various ownership, the Lowell Beer Store has operated at 213 E. Main since prohibition ended in 1933. It was recently acquired by Ed Mulder, Diona Oudbier and Joel Oudbier, who have renamed it “Showboat Spirits” and intend to rehabilitate the interior and exterior to what it looked like in the early 20th century.
“I always thought someone should fix this place up, and then we saw it for sale and I thought, 'Well, maybe we're the ones to do it!'” Diona Oudbier said. “And apparently we are. There is a lot of potential.”
“We want to work with the historic district to get it back to what it looked like back then when it first opened,” Joel Oudbier said. “Someday this will be completely remodeled. The beer store has been here since the 1930s, that's what we found out from the Lowell Area Historical Museum. They had some photos, but they were really rough. We don't have a really good, clear shot of the original entrance. We found some other pictures of the front, of what it used to look like, but we're always looking for more. According to public records, the building was built in 1867. We would sure like to bring it all back to original. We want to go down as far as we can, there are multiple layers of flooring under there, to get back to the original floor. We'd like to find the old brick walls and go up to the original ceiling and bring it all back. I'm really excited about making this a unique experience for people, so when they come to Lowell, they say, 'Hey, they have a great barbecue place, and then you've got to go across the street to Showboat Spirits, they have some really neat, unique stuff.' I'm hoping for that. We're going to look at [remodeling] when we slow down a little, probably in January.”
“Eventually we plan to add onto the cooler to make it bigger and add more craft beers to our inventory,” Ed Mulder said. “I can't wait until we can do that kind of stuff.”
“We have the coldest beer in town,” Joel Oudbier said. “It is kept at 38 degrees. Rishi's keeps theirs at 41, I think, at least that's what the door showed at the time I was in there, and Meijer and all them don't keep their beer that cold, even the gas stations.”
Mulder has not owned a store before, but his regular job involves the liquor industry. The Oudbiers used to own a store in Tennessee. Joel Oudbier and Mulder have known each other since childhood.
“I am originally from South Dakota,” Diona Oudbier said. “I met Joel when I came out here for college. We moved to Denver for a few years and then back here. I am also a musician and a yoga teacher, but I have also been a bookkeeper as well.”
“I was born on the southwest side of Grand Rapids and lived in Walker; I've also lived in Seattle and Nashville,” Ed Mulder said. “I've been working in provisioning management for Southwest Airlines for the past 20 years, working with the people who put the food and the drinks on the planes. We also put the alcohol on the planes, the little bottles. We've got some of those here!”
“I grew up in Grandville and lived in West Michigan until after college,” Joel Oudbier said. “Ed and I met in junior high school and continued our friendship, even though we moved to different parts of the country. We've always kept in contact. This is our first business venture together. Diona and I owned a country store in Alpine, TN, which is in the middle of nowhere, about 15 years ago. We sold beer, but it wasn't anything like this. Diona and I spent about 20 years living in Denver and we also lived in the Dominican Republic for a year. We wanted to come back to West Michigan because we love it and missed it. I've always been a Michigander and always will be.”
They plan to change up the inventory and are currently doing an audit of the prices of the merchandise in the store.
“We're definitely going through the prices, an audit, to keep them fair,” Joel Oudbier said. “There is some stuff in here that the past owner had too high and some things that were a little low. But you can't legally sell stuff below a certain price. It's called 'minimum shelf price.'”
“We're going to start going through and figuring out what's not selling, start getting rid of that to make more space,” Diona Oudbier said. “We're also going to be trying new inventory to see what else sells.”
“We're going to be adding more craft beer, an interesting selection of wines, and some rare bourbons, whiskies and vodkas that are hard to get,” Joel Oudbier said. “We'll still have all the same regular beverages and mixers, of course.”
The new owners plan to participate in all the downtown events the Chamber of Commerce puts on, such as Christmas through Lowell and the Riverwalk Festival. Mulder and the Oudbiers said it's important to support locally-owned businesses instead of enriching some distant corporation.
“During those times we want to have wine tastings, beer tastings, even a bourbon tasting if we can,” Joel Oudbier said. “For Girls Night Out in October we've got a guy from Short's Brewing coming in and he's going to be doing hard ciders and some of their more citrus-flavored beers. He'll probably be here from like 5:30 pm until around 7:30, and then from 8 until about 9:30 we plan to have a guy doing a wine tasting. And we hope to have live music, somebody playing guitar. I am very adamant about trying to put as much money as we can back into downtown. We're getting our haircuts down here, going to the hardware store down here, going out to eat down here, going to Springrove Variety. We want our clients to know that the money that's being spent here stays here and makes the town stronger. You might get your six pack a few cents cheaper at the BP [British Petroleum] station, I don't know, but that money goes to Britain, it doesn't stay here. We want to be the type of store where people come in and the owners are running it.”
Showboat Spirits, 213 E. Main, is open from 9 am until 10 pm Monday through Thursday, 9 am until 11 pm on Friday and Saturday, and noon until 8 pm on Sunday.
“We have a lot of ideas,” Joel Oudbier said. “We want to make this Lowell's mom and pop party store.”