Vegetarian cafe creates safe environment for students – Grand Valley Lanthorn

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The Gaia House Cafe vegetarian restaurant has reopened in a beautifully decorated new location in the Creston neighborhood of Grand Rapids. The current owner encourages students to come and enjoy food, drinks and the comfortable lounge dotted with works by local artists.

The original Gaia House Cafe opened in the 1980s as a vegetarian restaurant that cultivated an artistic and open-minded culture in its building in the East Hills neighborhood. This place which had become a popular gathering place for the community closed in 2014. However, that was not the end of their history.

Current owner Andrea Bumstead worked for Gaia House Cafe for eight years before it closed. When the previous owner decided to close, she bought the rights to the proceeds.

At first, her plan was to reopen in the original building, but when the building was sold, she began to look for other options. This opened the door for Bumstead to settle in Creston, a community that showed him nothing but support throughout this process.

Creston is the largest neighborhood in Grand Rapids with 25,000 residents. Bumstead has lived in this region for about eight years. She said most business owners own their building and has seen her business neighbors grow organically in this community.

“It’s an inspiration to me because it somehow shows, no matter who you are or what kind of life you are, you can build what your dreams are in this space,” Bumstead said.

Bumstead said she sees something special in Creston that she doesn’t see in the rest of Grand Rapids.

“All of our business neighbors are incredibly connected and work very well together,” Bumstead said. “We organize events all the time to support our community, our neighbors, artists and business owners. You don’t see that much in the city, so for me it’s really important and it’s kind of the backbone of what Gaia is as a whole and that we want to continue to be a part of.

GVL / Marie Racette

Gaia House Cafe has always intended to accommodate guests of all kinds. No matter what a client wears, what their profession, or if they are alone or with family, everyone is treated the same.

“It was just a safe and very open place for the community to come and express exactly who they are exactly where they are and be accepted,” Bumstead said.

Art has always been an element of the Gaia House Cafe, but Bumstead increased the involvement of local artists when it reopened by collaborating with the Division Avenue Arts Collective (DAAC). In Gaia’s new space, the restaurant occupies the front and the back is used as a gallery space for the DAAC.

“In the future, we just want to invite new artists, up-and-coming artists or even those who are just testing the waters, and give them some confidence to show what they are capable of,” said Bumstead.

While customers from all walks of life are greeted with delight at the cafe, Bumstead hopes students will come to populate the space more often.

“We have this wonderful coffee and juice bar lounge that hasn’t really been used, but we built it for students to come and connect and do their homework or meet in our lounge area,” said Bumstead.

Current staff shortages have prevented Bumstead from executing some of its plans. However, once staff are more able to get in, student discount days are on Bumstead’s radar.

Vegetarians and vegans are in their element at Gaia House Cafe, but the menu can appeal to everyone. The menu is a mix of items from the original menu and new additions added by Bumstead. One of the additions is the grilled cheese tortilla.

Veggie Stash is the most popular dish on the menu as well as the dish Bumstead craves most. This dish was one of the original menu items that Bumstead kept.

The Gaia House Cafe has a long history of food, art, and a warm community. It’s only been open for about seven months and has already drawn people in through the art gallery and classic vegetarian dishes.


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