The Candied Yam begins construction of a restaurant and banquet hall

An award-winning local soul food restaurateur plans to open a new restaurant and banquet hall this summer.

Jessica Ann Tyson, owner of The Candied Yam Delightful Southern Cuisine, said construction of a vacant 7,000-square-foot building at 932 S. Division Ave., which she plans to turn into a second restaurant and banquet hall Candied Yam, started.

Demolition began last week with the facade of the property. Tyson’s goal is to open the restaurant and event center this summer.

According to documents from the Grand Rapids Planning Commission, the restaurant will seat about 96 diners and the banquet hall will seat about 218 people.

Elliot Muller of Ben Muller Realty in Grand Rapids is the developer of the building, which was acquired by Mull Trie LLC – owned by Ben Muller Realty president Mark Muller – for $500,000 in 2019.

The project is a partnership between Elliot Muller, the Trierweiler Family Trust and Tyson. The Candied Yam will be the sole tenant of the building.

Pure Architects, based in Grand Rapids, is the architect and Kozak Construction, based in Grand Rapids Township, is the general contractor.

Jessica Ann Tyson. Courtesy 616 Media

Tyson said she was looking for opportunities to grow her business and build generational wealth, and Elliot Muller pitched her the idea of ​​opening a location at the vacant property last summer. She said they both agreed it was important to have an equity stake in minority-owned businesses, and Kozak Construction was tasked with hiring minority contractors for the project.

“This neighborhood deserves more than just one tenant,” Tyson said. “There was already a company that thought like a ‘big brother’ to Mull Trie; it just needs a “little sister” who complements the vision of the neighborhood (and) Muller and who wants to make the investment. »

Elliot Muller and Tyson said lack of access to capital and lack of opportunity to own real estate is still a very real problem among entrepreneurs of color, and they wanted to change that narrative.

“Wages do not generate generational wealth; equity does,” said Elliot Muller. “This is an opportunity for us to lead by example. We must help create and repeat. The 932 S. Division property was in dire need of a business that could fit well into the neighborhood. We know The Candied Yam, the owner and her reputation. We want to operate in the best interest of the community, and that includes supporting and partnering with a solid business that offers truly amazing food and can provide employment opportunities for the immediate neighborhood.

Tyson said she plans to hire minority-owned businesses as vendors and neighbors as staff at the new location.

“This approach ensures that minorities are taken into account in all aspects of the project, from the construction phase and for many years afterwards,” she said.

The building’s interior will be “modern chic,” incorporating “comfortable touches” to complement its soul food, Tyson said. Larger windows are being added to the building’s exterior, and a “fun southern plaid” is being considered for the building’s exterior, she said.

The Candied Yam — which in 2019 was selected as one of the 50 Best Places to Eat in Grand Rapids by Yelp — will retain its original location at 2305 44th St. SE on Breton Meadows Plaza.

Tyson said the new restaurant will offer the same menu as the original, including five meats, two fish options, eight house-made sides and house sauce. The banquet hall will offer a larger menu with items sourced from local vendors.

The partners said they hope this project will be a catalyst for opportunities for other minority-owned businesses, ensuring a more inclusive entrepreneurial landscape in the greater Grand Rapids area.

More information about The Confit Yam is online.

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