There is an intoxicating energy emanating from the historic Bancroft Project standing proudly in the core of the Downtown Saginaw business district on the corner of Genesee & Washington as the newly renovated, refurbished, and re-invented Bourbon & Co. prepares to open its doors, the latest step in a journey that over the last few years has witnessed a luxury apartment complex, a Coffee & Tea Café, an increasingly popular Wine & Martini Bar, and an expansive regional art gallery infusing fresh life and affirmative possibilities for excitement into the Downtown corridor.
Bourbon & Co. is the latest project for owner and entrepreneur Ryan Seifferlein, whom along with Bancroft Project developer Mark Bodnar, has managed to create an ambient and visionary establishment that will specialize in offering a vast array of Bourbons & Whiskeys along with 20 different Michigan Craft Beers, a unique dining menu, and live musical entertainment on Tuesday & Friday evenings.
As a committed and invested preservationist that believes in transforming talk into action, Seifferlein is equally pleased as he is excited to have been able to work with many of the structures original characteristics, such as refurbishing the 1916 terrazzo flooring and sandblasting the original brickwork, while also incorporating salvaged items such as weathered barn aluminum sheeting and original window treatments – mingling it with newer features that bridge the spatial gap between decades with an overall ambiance that is equally as fresh and inviting as it is comforting and nostalgic.
“This style is so different,” enthuses Ryan as we take our tour. “I call it Industrial Punk – its classy without appearing too high-end.”
“My goal was to make the place feel like something you’d find in Detroit or Chicago, so people could step out of Saginaw for a second,” continues Ryan. “I wanted to push the boundaries a bit and be ahead of the trends, which is why we also feature a pair of single-use unisex bathroom facilities.” (Editor’s note: Bourbon & Co. also features multi-use traditional male & female bathrooms, cleverly indicated with chromosomal markings labeled ‘XX’ and ‘XY’ that can make for an amusing distraction when observing those people confused with the biological gender distinction.)
At 4,000 square feet Bourbon & Co. will be able to accommodate 92 chairs within their roomy spaciousness and also features Live Bands & Musical Entertainment on Tuesdays and Fridays, with live music happening in the Bancroft Wine Bar on Wednesdays & Saturdays, bringing their weekly showcase of live local entertainment at the complex to four nights per week
In one significant way, the opportunities presented to Ryan through the Bancroft Project was not unlike Walt Disney gazing over the acreage that would one day become Disneyland and saying to himself, ‘I have some really cool & amazing space available here for development, how do I envision occupying it’?
The vibe is instantly appealing and centered around both an industrial and antique rustic feel that bridges the special gap between the historical and contemporary. “There was an idea floating around to do some kind of similar project within this space, which I basically used as a blueprint and manipulated,” reflects Ryan. “This made the project easier to step into.”
“Bourbon is a hot item right now and so is craft beer,” he explains while articulating his vision for the establishment. “We’re going to start out with 40 to 50 different bourbons & whiskey and hope to eventually grow to offer approximately 75 to 80 additional brands as we evolve,” states Ryan.
“When you start off many of the more select brands of bourbon available are based upon sales and volume, so in the beginning you don’t always get what you want; but next year we’ll be able to obtain those reserves based upon the quantities sold of the particular brand.”
According to Ryan, most bourbons originate from the southern states, but they don’t have to derive from there to be classified as bourbon. “Bourbon is a specific United States liquor with certain qualities that must originate from the U.S.A., which is pretty cool”, notes Ryan. “We’ll also be featuring 20 different Michigan craft beers on tap and 30 different bottle brands, so won’t exclusively be featuring bourbon and will also be offering a full bar so people can still get their gin and tonic, although bourbon & Michigan craft beer will be our focus.”
Ryan says he isn’t worried about creating competition for himself by operating both a Wine & Martini Bar and a Bourbon & Craft Beer emporium out of the same complex because each will specialize in different features. “Here at Bourbon & Co. we’ll only have 9 different bottles of wine, whereas over at the Wine & Martini bar we feature over 100 different bottles of wine. Plus, we will be featuring a full kitchen here at Bourbon & Co. to serve burgers and other more unique food items.”
One of the high-volume and most in-demand bourbons that Ryan hopes to feature in the future is Pappy Van Winkle. “It’s a very limited release and only comes around Christmas-time and is like pulling teeth to get,” notes Ryan. “I have one bottle and you do notice a distinction between the many various bourbons, mainly in the way they are aged and the process they go through each one to create.”
“Meanwhile, other bourbons such as Buffalo Trace is not expensive at all, so our prices will range as cheap as $10.00 up to $300 or $400 per bottle. Some go up to $1,000, so the prices for Bourbon vary a lot, but we’ll feature pricing that is affordable for everybody. That way if people experience the best day of their life they can celebrate with a rare bourbon, while also coming in every day for dinner and not break the bank.”
In addition to deftly assembled burgers and fries, the Bourbon & Co. food menu will feature various taco variations and other unique items such as Poutine. “That’s one of the dishes we’ll be offering that sounds dirty,” laughs Ryan, but is really quite tasty – its basically fries & gravy with cheese curds and is a Canadian dish. As for the tacos, there will be nothing standard in our regular taco and most of the items we serve will consist of nothing conventional that you can make at home. We’ll offer Pork Belly tacos and other variations. To my mind when it comes to food, everything has been done so my thinking is that you have to reinvent the way you do prepare and present things.”
Ryan is also decidedly pleased with the way Bourbon & Co. shimmers with these many visionary elements that he has thread together for the entity; and is equally pleased about the way the Bancroft Wine & Martini Bar has furthered its reputation & standing within the community.
“We’re getting consistent people coming into our doors and people hanging out,” states Ryan, “which is all I ask for. Featuring live music has helped greatly and because I’m a lover of live music and believe in supporting the arts, I’m excited to be able to offer something bigger and feature bands and groups in the Bourbon bar.”
Another significant element is the levity and amusement that Ryan has brought to the appointment and decoration of Bourbon & Co. With actual police mug shots of various rock & film stars lining the walls, patrons can also have their own mug shot taken that will be added to the litany of famous people lining the walls such as Jim Morrison, Dennis Hopper, Prince, and Jane Fonda that were snapped during their finest moments before entering the slammer.
And with other design elements such as large bourbon keg tables, contemporary artwork, and the overall comfortable ambiance of Bourbon & Co, everything about the place gels.
Seifferlein says he is excited to see investments being made in downtown Saginaw and wants to continue being a part of that process.
“You really have to be patent with this process when you come into an area, he concludes. "It's a good opportunity. The space is here and I’m just grateful that we could bring it all to fruition. I want to see even more stuff coming downtown and to my mind, am simply doing my part with helping get the area down here redeveloped and transformed into a destination point.”