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Former J. Gardella's building to be new French-style restaurant, parts of bar sold to movie set

On the second floor is a historic bar that is 30-feet long. Michael Winks confirmed that he sold it to a movie production company to be used in a set.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — One of the oldest storefronts along Ionia Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids is officially getting a new life. Plus part of it's history will be used in a national movie set.

The 3-story building at 11 Ionia Avenue SW was built in 1890. In 1996, it was transformed into J. Gardella's Tavern for nearly 24 years. J. Gardella's was one of the first restaurants to open after the Van Andel Arena to which it sat directly behind. 

In 2020, the restaurant closed. In Dec. of 2021, the building was sold for $1.1 million to MJW Real Estate Holdings, owned by Michael Winks.

The building has sat vacant since it's sale, but Winks confirmed Friday to 13 ON YOUR SIDE that he has partnered with other operators to turn the 3-story building into a bar/restaurant concept they plan to call "Scholar."

"It will have an American/French flavor, and will be a little-higher end," Winks said. "High food quality, good energy, and a lively environment."

Winks said he's not yet ready to announce who he has partnered with quite yet, but said they're "experienced and local here in town." 

"We're working on wrapping up the architectural plans in the city permit process, and then we'll begin remodeling all three floors," Winks said. "So it'll have a new look and feel, but we're honoring the historical character of the building."

"We're excited to put a new concept in here and keep it going, if you will."

On the building's second floor is a historic bar that is 30-feet long, and Winks said he imagines it's been there since the 1930's or 40's. Winks confirmed that he sold the large bar to a production company that sources tell 13 ON YOUR SIDE will be used in a set for a major movie. 

The filming will not take place in Grand Rapids, instead, the company came to Grand Rapids and spent days carefully taking apart the bar and loading it into a moving van to take back to their set. 

"It was just a little too large for what we're doing," Winks said. "But we will rebuild a second bar, so there will actually be a bar located on all three levels."

"We're looking forward to opening in the first part of next year and we're excited to offer this to the community," he added. 

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