Downtown Restaurant Blends Beer & BBQ for St. Patty’s Day Opening

March 18, 2012 by  
Filed under News


Red Rock Downtown Barbecue was open for business Saturday, March 17

Red Rock Downtown Barbecue was open for business Saturday, March 17.

It’s been more than two years in the making, but March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, marked the first day of business for Shawn Cool’s Michigan Avenue restaurant, Red Rock Downtown Barbecue.

The “barbecue and bar joint,” as many patrons have already dubbed Red Rock, is located at the former location of TC’s Speakeasy, near the corner of Washington Street and Michigan Avenue. Cool acquired the building after it was foreclosed and listed for sale in Jan. 2009, and he has been working toward Saturday’s soft opening ever since.

“It’s been tough and there has been a lot that’s stood in the way of making today happen, but what can I say?” Cool said. “We’re here and we’re open, and just by word of mouth, we’ve been pretty busy all day.”

As Cool alluded to, there was no advertising, no paid promotions and no major announcements of the restaurant’s opening. Plugs on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter helped keep customers like Bethany Schultz coming through the doors all day long.

“We’ve been seeing how hard (Cool) has been working on this place the last two years and we decided to come by and check it out,” Schultz said. “I’m a vegetarian and today I had the macaroni and cheese, sweet potato fries and cornbread and they were all really good. And we tried some of the different sauces they had to offer. My favorite was the spicy one.”

Red Rock offered an abbreviated menu on St. Patrick’s Day, as the restaurant served up ribs, brisket and pulled pork, as well as favorite backyard-barbecue sides such as baked beans and coleslaw, among others. Additionally, Cool and his bar supervisor John Little served patrons from the 20 different beers that are on tap behind the bar.

“I think our beer choice is one thing people will really enjoy besides the atmosphere and the food,” said Little, who worked with Cool for more than eight years at Lucky Strike in Novi before leaving to team with him at Red Rock. “We have 10 Michigan brews and 10 brews that come from different parts of the country, including beers like Budweiser and Miller Lite for people who want their regular beers.”

Red Rock bartender Kim Sweet pours up a double shot of vodka.

Red Rock bartender Kim Sweet pours up a double shot of vodka.

Local business owner Angela Barbash was a driving force in Red Rock’s opening-day success, as she spread the word about the business’s opening to her friends and clients through word-of-mouth and social media advertising.

“I’m all for businesses opening and thriving in Ypsi,” Barbash said. “I heard about the opening through Transition Ypsi and quickly started to spread the word. Barbecue is something that Ypsi and the downtown area was really missing. I know today was just the soft opening, but everything was really good. There are obviously a few things that need to be worked out, but it’s good. (People who live, work and frequent downtown) will really be looking for their good lunch specials and good lunch menus, so if they can provide that, I think they’ll survive.”

Barbash, who is a large proponent for locally sourced products, said that if the company could show a commitment to Ypsilanti that the people of the city would support the business even more.

“Ypsi is just that type of community where people care about things like locally sourced foods so that’s what we like to see in the businesses here,” she said.

Peter Rinehart, who ate lunch at Red Rock with his family, agreed with Barbash.

“Ypsi businesses will thrive if they are true to Ypsi and this place seems like it is,” Rinehart said. “It’s got great food, it’s a great place for taking a family or hanging out with friends, and the food is really good. It’s definitely a place that I’ll be visiting a lot.”

Cool, although satisfied to open, said that there were a lot of last-minute kinks that had to be worked out even hours after Red Rock opened, and that he’s looking forward to this, his first experience in restaurant ownership, being the start of a great thing.

A group of 12 local residents made 16 bar stops in less than 24 hours during their annual St. Patty's Day Bar Crawl. Red Rock was their final stop.

A group of 12 locals made 16 bar stops in less than 24 hours during their annual St. Patty's Day Pub Crawl. Red Rock was their final stop.

“We had our techs here in case of any register malfunctions, our beer guy was here installing the last of the taps until about 3:00 p.m., but we opened at 2:00 p.m., and we’ve still got to get some things done here, but I’m very happy about how it’s going so far.

“I started working in restaurants when I was 15 and now I’m 32, so I’ve been in the industry a long time,” Cool said. “I’ve had just about every job in this business. Like I said, it took a lot to get here, but I’m really pumped and I can tell the community is behind us. I mean, we’re having a great turnout and it’s all been done just because the people have been spreading it basically by word of mouth.”

Cool said the menu will expand to include chicken, various entrees, salads and other side dishes once the restaurant is set for its grand opening in mid-April.

Opening Day of Farmer’s Market is a Sure Sign of Spring

Evidenced by the return of migrating birds, the fragrance of lilacs in bloom, and the season opening of the Farmer’s Market, it would seem that Spring has sprung in Ypsilanti.

The Downtown Ypsilanti Farmers Market will open Tuesday, May 4th but you won’t see the colorful canopies of the vendors in the Key Bank parking lot where they’ve made their seasonal, weekly, home since the DYFM’s start in 2006.  The market has a new location on Ferris Street between Hamilton and Adams streets.  “They outgrew the former space” says Ryan Stedman, who manages the market for the nonprofit organization Growing Hope.  “The new space will accommodate a larger variety of vendors, community groups and entertainment.”

Vendors at the DYFM are farmers, backyard gardeners, greenhouse growers, and community gardeners.  Previous years vendors have included:

  • Living Stones Community; a non-profit organization that offers formerly incarcerated Washtenaw County residents an internship that includes training in urban agriculture and entrepreneurship.
  • Thomason Family Farm; All produced within downtown Ypsilanti, a special variety of cheeses is the delicious offering from the Thomason Family Farm.  Aubrey Thomason, who doubles as a cheese maker for Zingerman’s Creamery in Ann Arbor, has done work with cheese in the states and abroad.
  • Ypsilanti Food Co-op; The Ypsilanti Food Co-op has been around for 36 years. They bake an assortment of artisan breads.  The co-op also provides support and services for the surrounding community.

The Downtown Ypsilanti Farmer’s Market provides the community access to buy fresh, local, products direct. This results in a healthier community, a cleaner environment, support for the local economy and development of Ypsilanti downtown.  Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber will be at the market from 5 to 6 p.m. to greet members of the community.  Local weather forecasts predict temperatures around 70 degrees;  Perfect for a visit to the Farmer’s Market which will operate from 2 p.m. – 6 p.m., and accepts credit cards, bridge cards, and cash.

Materials Unlimited Building for sale for $845K

Ypsilanti institution Materials Unlimited building and business are for sale. The building at 2 West Michigan Avenue in downtown Ypsilanti is on the market for $845,000. Reynold Lowe, owner, said the business is for sale as well.

Materials Unlimited

The sale is brokered by Jackie Wright at Charles Reinhart Company.

Lowe said he has run the business for nearly 40 years and it is time to look for someone that can continue with the business.

Lowe said they have the complete package with up to date website with on-line sales, computer systems, and inventory. Lowe would not disclose the price of the business and referred inquiries to his broker.

“Before I started this business, I did painting and sculpture,” said Lowe. “I would like to get back to that.”

Materials Unlimited is a destination business in Ypsilanti. Lowe said he has worked with area business so that visitors know about local restaurants like Beezy’s, Sidetrack, and Haabs. Customers come from all over the country, Canada, and overseas and will often spend the entire day in Ypsilanti.

Virtual Tour of the Materials Unlimited building

Materials Unlimited

Video: Rust Belt to Artist Belt in Ypsilanti

February 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Video

How branding, marketing and promotion can be used to transform your community.

Brian Friedman, Executive Director of Northeast Shores Development Co. (CDC) in Waterloo near Cleveland, Ohio discusses one community’s successful implementation of an action plan to revitalize their region through business, arts, and culture. Using the model developed in Cleveland, Mr. Friedman. described how branding, marketing and promotion can be used to transform a community like Ypsilanti.

The meeting was held at What Is That gallery in Downtown Ypsilanti.

Presentation is 1 hour and 38 minutes