GRAND RAPIDS — From the moment Steven Martinez-Thiel launched his Grand Rapids-based food startup Basalt, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to derail it.
Since launching Basalt, which focuses on breakfast tacos and Tex-Mex fare, in the spring of 2020, Martinez-Thiel and his team have persevered and have reached a new milestone: Opening a brick-and-mortar location.
“It’s something we’ve been aiming for — we weren’t really sure when it would happen, but we just happened to find this space in early January and all the stars just kind of aligned and we really felt like this was the right move for us.”
Martinez-Thiel, a native Texan who relocated to Grand Rapids, recently leased vacant space at 1450 Wealthy St. SE in Eastown for Basalt. If renovations continue on as planned, he expects a soft opening in mid-April.
Against the backdrop of a pandemic that has caused capacity limits for indoor dining, Martinez-Thiel is rolling out service incrementally. When Basalt opens, it will facilitate pick-up, takeout and delivery orders, with dine-in becoming an option when health conditions allow.
“We’re not too worried about capacity (limitations) because we have a fantastic product that travels really well,” Martinez-Thiel said. “A lot of our fans are used to coming to us to grab something quick to go. We’re able to continue that model here.”
With COVID looming large, there are plenty of reasons for concern but some optimism.
“There are still a lot of questions about how we do this in a responsible way and in a way that respects the health and safety of our people and our guests,” Martinez-Thiel said. “This is just a really fantastic time of year. Vaccines are moving quicker than anyone anticipated and the weather is really great.”
Basalt initially gained visibility and traction with a presence at the Fulton Street Farmers Market beginning last year. Martinez-Thiel said that his business will maintain that presence at the market this year.
Basalt’s brick-and-mortar restaurant will feature an expanded menu.
“We’re still going to have a great selection of breakfast tacos — a lot of favorites from the Fulton Street Farmers Market. We’re also bringing on some tacos that aren’t necessarily breakfast oriented for folks that aren’t feeling the breakfast vibe all day.”
While Martinez-Thiel did not share the terms of Basalt’s lease, he did say that he was “hoping to be in the neighborhood for a long time.”
The restaurant also recently completed a campaign on crowdfunding website Kickstarter that raised $15,599 from supporters. Martinez-Thiel said the money would “get us across the finish line,” and cover certain costs that he was unable to fund himself.