Bostwick Lake Inn preps for early May opening

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL

Hoisted by a crane, a huge 22’ x 10’ custom all-weather outdoor fiberglass walk-in cooler/freezer combo was recently placed adjacent to the Bostwick Lake Inn kitchen.

“We are polishing a jewel,” says Greg Gilmore, CEO of the Gilmore Collection, when speaking about the soon-to-be reopened Bostwick Lake Inn.

Squire readers will recall the Gilmore Collection acquisition of the historic waterfront Bostwick Lake property earlier this year. Undergoing extensive and intensive renovations and updates since, the Bostwick Lake Inn (BLI) will reopen in the very near future. “This is a 100-year old building and we specialize in historic renovations and we are very, very good at it,” says Gilmore.

Historic indeed. Located near Rockford, at the intersection of Belding Rd. and Kitson Drive, the current Bostwick Lake Inn was originally home to a 1910 beach house and pavilion. In 1927 this structure was replaced by Bert’s Lakeside Place. Owned by James and Susan Bert, it operated as a soda fountain/bathhouse/restaurant, and later as a tavern.

Belly up to this one! Pictured (L to R) behind the gleaming and refinished antique bar of the Bostwick Lake Inn are the restaurant’s management team: General Manager Mike Thorp, Executive Chef Wes Davis, Bar Lead Theresa Vander Boon, and Server Lead Sandy Corbelli. Notice the original tin ceiling and an old-fashioned brass foot rail fronting the bar.

With the repeal of Prohibition in 1934, Bert’s Lakeside Place became known as the Bostwick Lake Inn and was one of the first three area taverns to receive a liquor license. The other two were Chinnick’s on Pearl St. and the Pantland Hotel, now the Amway Grand Plaza.

During the decade of the 1930’s, the tavern featured floorshows from Chicago, slot machines, dancing, and full course dinners. An old menu from the 30’s offered up a complete seven-course dinner for an amazing $1.25!

BLI also served as an unofficial post office in the 1940’s, allowing lake residents to stop and pick up mail when the postman could not navigate the roads around the lake due to winter snows.

In 1954, Earnest Gates purchased the lakeside Inn and, along with the Pullen family, operated the BLI for decades.

Jim Web purchased the BLI in 1996 and ran it for fifteen years as a more upscale, white linen style restaurant before passing the torch on to the Gilmore Collection in 2012.

Currently, with historic renovations nearing completion, the BLI also features a complete state-of-the-art renovation of the kitchen. Everything in the old kitchen was replaced with gleaming stainless steel commercial restaurant equipment.

The entire interior of the restaurant has been returned to its original luster with many additional enhancements. The bar and back bar have been replaced by an even grander historic 25’ antique bar complete with brass foot rail from the (since closed) Thornapple Daily Grill in Ada. “Everything about the BLI will be up to the level of excellence that all of the patrons of the restaurants of the Gilmore Collection have come to expect,” said Gilmore.

The exterior color of the building will no longer be the iconic white of the past century but will instead sport a lively contemporary color scheme. “We plan to put the fun back into the BLI,” said Gilmore. “It will be less formal than the recent past and more casual as it was in earlier days.”

Mike Thorp, General Manager of the BLI tells us, “The restaurant’s eclectic mix of menu items will focus on an array of small plate appetizers along with burgers and, certainly, Gilmore’s signature artisan pizza selections. Of course, great steaks and seafood will be on the menu as well.”

“My staff and I can’t wait to get everyone in here. There’s a great buzz of anticipation in the Rockford community and as well as with Gilmore Collection aficionado’s everywhere. We’re ready to go, we promise not to disappoint,” said Thorp.

Your reporters are, and have always been, Gilmore Collection fans. We, too, are salivating and cannot wait for what promises to soon be a destination of choice for West Michigan – the Bostwick Lake Inn.

Greg Gilmore said they were currently polishing a jewel prior to opening. For ourselves, we like to think of the BLI as a “future solitaire gem” in the crown of jewels that is the Gilmore Collection.

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