Long-time East Hills cafe in jeopardy of closing

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A long-time East Hills cafe is in jeopardy of closing Sunday if someone doesn’t step up and help keep the doors open.

Gaia Cafe, located at 209 Diamond Avenue SE, has been in the Grand Rapids area since 1982.  The current owner, Rick Van Dam, has decided to retire, leaving the restaurant with no current means of staying open.

“Tomorrow [Sunday] is the last day for the current owner. He’s owned it and done a great job owning it and giving back to the community for the past 30 years. It’s time for him to move on and start other ventures,” said Andrea Bumstead, a manager of Gaia Cafe for the past six years.

Employees found out about the possible closure last week and alerted customers through Facebook. Since then, people have been crowding the restaurant to order their favorite meals.

“We cleared the dinner schedules. We came here Thursday, Friday and today,” said Paul Helm.

Paul Helm and his wife, Elizabeth are vegetarian and have been eating at Gaia Cafe for about 20 years. Their two kids, Chelsea and Zachary, are also regular customers.

“I can’t remember a single time we haven’t come here when I’m over on this side of the state,” said Zachary Helm.

Employees have seen an outpouring of support for the restaurant since the announcement of the closure and customers are sad to see it go.

“I can’t even tell you how many times I feel like I’ve built relationships with people here or people that I’ve seen elsewhere in Grand Rapids. It all comes together here. I think that’s why people are so sad to see it go,” said Chelsea Helm.

“I’ve met extended members of my family [at this restaurant] and the connections I’ve made. The people that come in here are the people who will always be in my life,” said Bumstead.

Employees currently have the first option to buy the restaurant and have been coming together to find a way to make that happen.

“We’re doing everything in our power to make sure we have that main stay here and keeping the integrity of Gaia and what it is,” said Bumstead.

Bumstead said there are also talks of a community campaign to keep the restaurant open.

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