Barks & beer

Michelle Brolick reflects on 20 years as owner of Old Boys’ Brewhouse

By Marie Havenga

SPRING LAKE — Seems Michelle Brolick was destined to own a restaurant.

She worked in one her entire working life, she majored in hospitality in college and she wanted to find a unique niche.

So she built her own restaurant/brewery on a waterfront parcel in the Village of Spring Lake, years before breweries were bountiful.

Old Boys’ Brewhouse, 971 W. Savidge Street, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

“I knew that I wanted to open something and I went through several different ideas,” Brolick said. “I researched buildings for about 12 years and this particular location four different times with different developers. I worked with The Chamber. They were pretty instrumental.”

Brolick, who had been home brewing beer with friends for years, keyed in on another important aspect of her life with her restaurant – her love of animals.

Old Boys’ was named after a chocolate lab, Old Boy, that she rescued from Fremont. The dog’s owners had moved away and left him behind.

Tribune photos/Marie Havenga
In keeping with the canine theme, the walls at Old Boys Brewhouse are decorated with photos of dogs.
Old Boys Brewhouse entered the Spring Lake scene before local breweries were all the rage.

“He was older,” Brolick said. “He was very arthritic but he got around. He was a very social dog.”

Old Boy passed away in 1994, but became the namesake, and theme, of her restaurant venture.

“I didn’t want a nautical theme because so many places are,” Brolick said. “It was a very dog friendly community and there were a lot of vets (veterinarians) coming to town. People were doing more things with dogs back then.”

But she never could have imagined how big that theme would become.

“Anybody can bring a (pet) picture and put it on the wall,” she said. “There are so many stories that come with them. It’s been pretty cool. I love the animal theme.”

Brolick said she grew up volunteering, so giving back to the community has been a natural for her in business, too.

“It’s kind of what I do,” she said. “What makes me feel good is putting a smile on somebody’s face. I’m a neighborhood, community person. People don’t have to have the stress of going home to make dinner. They can hang out here with family and friends.”

Although the menu and beer selections have undergone many changes over the years, there’s been a constant for the last two decades – the Brutus Burger, which was named after another chocolate lab of hers.

The Old Boys’ Lucky Marge’s Large Lager was named after her most recent dog, Lucky Marge. Unfortunately, Brolick had to put her down in late September.

Her pets aren’t the only inspiration in her restaurant. Local and regional ingredients make up much of the menu and beer selections.

“We purchase ingredients from Michigan people and it’s all Michigan-grown ingredient beer, depending on what’s available,” she said.

Brolick, a 1985 Grand Haven High School graduate who now lives in Spring Lake Township, still loves this area.

“This is a beautiful place to live and I enjoy what I do,” said said. “I want to thank the community because I wouldn’t be here without them. The staff is what makes up Old Boys’. I have some people who have been here a really long time. It’s not something I do by myself by any means.”