GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan restaurant that has been a lakeshore icon for more than six decades will live on instead of being torn down.
In June, Bil-Mar owner Howard Meyer announced plans to retire and sell his property to a developer who would raze the restaurant and build high-end condos on the Lake Michigan site.
But news of the pending sale created concerns among customers, neighbors and Margot Quillen-Baltz, who is the daughter of the restaurant’s original owner.
“Of course that bothered me. It’s an icon,” Quillen-Baltz told 24 Hour News 8. “The restaurant has been here and of course, how can you beat this view.”
All that talk convinced Howard Meyer to go with his heart.
“I called the developer and we sat down, Sharron my wife and I, and said ‘Guys, we’re going to put this on hold,’” Meyer told 24 Hour News 8 Monday. “We really want to sell this as a restaurant. We want this to continue like this.”
Three or four other restaurant groups expressed an interest in taking over the restaurant. But Meyer said longtime Cascade Township restaurateur Tony Noto was the perfect fit.
Now, Bil-Mar’s legacy will continue as Noto’s at the Bil-Mar.
“With many people out there looking at what this could be, what this is going to be, we’re just happy the Meyers gave us the opportunity to consider us,” Noto said.
“It makes us feel good to go into retirement knowing that it’s a family-run restaurant, which it has been for the last 48 years,” Meyer said.
The Bil-Mar legacy goes back to the 1950s when Margot Quillen-Baltz’s father needed a name for his Grand Haven beachside resort. He chose to combine portions of his son Bill and daughter Margo’s names and Bil-Mar was born.
In 1969, Howard Meyer’s father bought Bil-Mar, with Howard taking it over in 1971.
Howard Meyer decided to retire earlier this year. By June, renderings of the condo complex went public.
“That’s when our customers said, ‘We don’t want that. You can’t tear this down. We need a restaurant here. We want you here,’” said Meyer of the reaction that caused his change of heart.
The decision was announced Monday morning. Renovations at Noto’s at the Bil-Mar will begin in the off-season, with an unveiling planned for spring of 2018.
More upgrades are planned for the future, as the Noto family tries to create their own legacy at the lakeshore site.
“I have three grandchildren, Anthony, Rocko and baby Nadia,” Noto said. “It’s time for us to think about those next generations.”
Neighbors, especially those who’s view of the big lake could have been reduced by the proposed condo complex, were happy to hear the announcement.
“If things stay the same and move forward and better food,we’re going to be happy with it,” Bil-Mar neighbor Patty VanLopik said.
**Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Margot Quillen-Baltz’s name as Margo Quillen-Bultz. We regret the error, which as been fixed.