Grand Rapids Wine Festival Creates Career Opportunities

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While the focus of the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival is local restaurants and global beverage offerings, it's also a great place to mix and mingle. For some, this event even provides an opportunity for career networking.

Taylor Lyons was actively volunteering around the Grand Rapids area in 2016 for events like ArtPrize and the Color Run, as well as for nonprofits like food banks and animal shelters. That year, she also found her way to DeVos Place to pour samples in the popular "Beer City Station" area.

"That next year, Dawn [Baker, Festival Manager] reached out to ask me about supervising an area at the festival," says Lyons, who is Cicerone Beer Server Certified and is also studying to become Sommelier Certified. "She noticed the management experience that I had, and they were in need of a leader for Hemingway Hall. Getting to oversee this area was an opportunity I absolutely did not want to pass up."

Hemingway Hall—which pays tribute to one of the world's most noted cocktail drinkers, Pulitzer and Nobel prize winning author Ernest Hemingway—was introduced in 2017 and has grown to become a popular area of the Festival focused on Michigan distilleries, mixers, garnishes and condiments.

"I made lots of contacts that I still work with today," says Lyons, who went from the downtown Grand Rapids restaurant scene to Gun Lake Casino where she worked for five years. "I was on the opening team for the Harvest Buffet and remained there until COVID-19 struck. When the casino reopened, I returned as a Beverage Supervisor, overseeing all of the bars and liquor inventory on the property."

Taylor served in a variety of capacities at the casino, including assistant manager of Sandhill Café, opening team for CBK, Shkode' (pronounced ish-koh-day) and Stage 131, taking the challenges head on.

"Less than a month after opening our new restaurants, my General Manager resigned," Lyons says. "I acted as interim GM for both Shkode' and CBK for three to four months, balancing scheduling, ordering, training and hiring for both restaurants."

Looking to slow down from the fast pace of the Casino, Lyons followed up on a long-standing invitation to apply for a position at Bay Pointe Inn Bar & Grille overlooking picturesque Gun Lake in Shelbyville.

"Before the interview was even over, I knew that this was where I needed to be," she recalls. "The atmosphere is warm and so inviting. Plus, that view never gets old! There are no bad days on the lake."

Lyons started in early July of this year as Assistant Manager, working alongside her fiancé (who also transitioned from the Casino to Bay Pointe, as a bartender). About a month into the position, the General Manager left the restaurant and Taylor was quickly promoted to GM.

"The whole experience moving to Bay Pointe has been such a warm and welcome surprise. I love interacting with guests and getting to watch weddings every weekend is such a treat," says Lyons. "I see myself being here for many years to come. [Owners] Mike and Patti Powers are incredible, innovating minds and they have done such an incredible job curating such a unique hidden gem on Gun Lake. Their success is certainly a product of years of hard work and passion. I'm proud and honored to work for such an incredible family-owned company."

This year, Lyons will once again be part of the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival. However, she's turning over the reins of Hemingway Hall in order to manage Bay Pointe's restaurant presentation. This will be their fourth year participating with a "Small Plate" offering.

"After this year, I can say that I will have worked as a volunteer, a manager and now an exhibitor," says Lyons. "The atmosphere of the Festival is unmatched, and the energy is always humming ... and the buzz of 'it's almost showtime' is my favorite part. This Festival has been part of my life since 2016, and I hope that continues for many, many years to come!"

Courtesy of Showspan.

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