TRAVERSE CITY — Adriane Simons popped into West Side Beverage to pick up a few things the day before Thanksgiving.
In a few months, Simons could add a vegetarian sandwich or a slice of pizza at checkout.
West Side Beverage owner Tom Gretzmacher broke ground in late November in a massive $1.139 million construction project at 912 W. Front St. The Peninsula Construction build will double the retail space at the business and add a pair of two-bedroom condominiums on a second level.
Included in the expanded retail space is a deli that will add pizza and sandwiches to the long-time store’s offerings.
“I think that’s awesome, definitely,” Simons said. “My sister lives on Monroe (Street), so that will be convenient. I think it’ll go great.”
Gretzmacher said the only restaurant on West Front Street between Division Street and Cedar Run Road is Slabtown Burgers.
The West Side Beverage owner said he isn’t trying to compete with Slabtown, but feels there is a need to have a place to grab a sandwich or a slice on the way into or out of Traverse City.
“I’ve always wanted to get pizza in this area,” said Gretzmacher, who purchased the store in December of 2011.
“Everybody I’ve talked to has been real excited about the deli,” the Suttons Bay native said.
The expansion of West Side Beverage will better serve the 500 houses in the neighborhood. Gretzmacher said the current 1,200 square feet of retail space will double at the store that receives an average of 350-400 visits daily.
“Slabtown is a great community,” he said. “That’s something I’ve enjoyed, seeing the kids grow up and seeing people in their 60s and 70s come back into the store, hearing some of their stories.”
Gretzmacher is adding a second story to the building for a pair of two-bedroom, two-bath condos, each with 1,500 square feet of living space. Gretzmacher and his wife, Jennifer, plan to live in one of the condos. They’ll use the other as a Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO).
West Side Beverage has been a fixture on West Front Street since 1945.
Gretzmacher said he is the fourth owner of the business, which moved from the south side of the street to the north in the mid-1950s.
Gretzmacher said he “stumbled across” West Side Beverage when he was looking to run his own business after working at Bill Marsh Auto for more than a decade. Gretzmacher said he was close to acquiring another store in the area. When that deal fell through, he found out West Side was for sale and purchased it from Tim Zenner.
At the time, West Side sold beer and wine. An expanded selection followed: Gretzmacher obtained a liquor license when Jack’s Market closed on East Front Street, the current site of Little Fleet.
“I was very fortunate about that,” Gretzmacher said.
Even though his name is on the deed, Gretzmacher sees himself as more of a manager or a caretaker.
“We don’t own West Side Beverage, the community does,” he said.
With the extensive work planned for the property, West Side will close the first two months of 2020. A March reopening is planned. Work on the second-floor condos will continue until April or May.
The new West Side Beverage will have front and rear entrances. Parking will be available to the north. Table seating is planned for the front of the building.
All of the changes should lead to more tales from the next generation of customers.
“It’s been fun,” Gretzmacher said. “Our goal was to try to bring what West Side was before. We want to take all the stories and add to it.”
West Side Beverage is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Gretzmacher said he’s been “very fortunate, very blessed” to have four employees to keep things operating smoothly.
“Our goal was to try to bring what West Side was before. We want to take all the stories and add to it.” Tom Gretzmacher, owner