Kristin Schleman is Bringing it all Back Home

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Eaton Rapids Craft Co. doesn’t offer drive-thru service, but some people won’t take no for an answer.

Over a roughly six-month period, vehicles damaged the downtown restaurant in two separate incidents. Last fall, the driver of a truck jumped the curb and crashed into the dining room; on Mother’s Day, another truck clipped the corner of the building at 204 N. Main St. in Eaton Rapids.

Thankfully, no one was hurt in either incident. Fortunately, the owners have maintained a good sense of humor, as well as a healthy appreciation for life’s little oddities.

“Maybe at some point we’ll have a drive-thru, but not right now,” Kristin Schleman said with a laugh.

Kristin’s husband, Arby, and friend, Don McNabb, opened Eaton Rapids Craft Co. about two years ago. It was something of a homecoming for Kristin, who spent her childhood in Eaton Rapids before she graduated high school and moved off to college at Western Michigan University. Running into old friends and familiar faces once back in her hometown, things picked up as if she had never left.

“I love that this place gives people a meeting spot or a connection,” Kristin said.

Sitting on the banks of the Grand River, Eaton Rapids Craft Co. provides patrons with a calming view on its outdoor patio. As a former Miller’s Ice Cream Parlor and family restaurant, the building itself is soaked in local history.

“I can remember coming here when I was little to eat,” Kristin said. Now, she’s something of a jack-of-all-trades, catch-all manager for Eaton Rapids Craft Co. “I pick up the pieces and do all the other aspects of whatever needs to be done.”

The mother of 5-year-old twins also works full time as a business development manager at the Business & Community Institute of Lansing Community College (LCC), offering workforce training across a six-county region. Eaton Rapids Craft Co. links to her work at LCC when she is assisting businesses.

While it would be ideal to say that the first two years for Eaton Rapids Craft Co. have been smooth sailing, that scenario is the exception to the rule in the ever-fluctuating restaurant industry.

“It’s had its ups and downs,” Kristin said. “Any opening of a new business is going to face its fair share of challenges.”

Some of those challenges – seasonal swings, high turnover – are simply the nature of the beast. Other challenges include the tweaks and adjustments needed to perfect the vision of the owners, such as menu changes.

From braised pork belly with apple butter, pancetta, Brussels and bread pudding to the marinated hanger steak with blackberry romesco, balsamic and whipped potatoes, Eaton Rapids Craft Co. offers the upscale dining experience without the upscale pricing. Kristin’s personal favorite is the Mad Hatter sandwich with portabella, gouda, grilled zucchini and raisin pesto.

But what would Eaton Rapids Craft Co. be without craft beer? The 12 taps at the establishment offer a rotating range of craft brews and hard cider with an emphasis on Michigan brands.

“We have great tap specials for anyone who loves craft beer,” Kristin said. “We’re very Michigan-oriented, very community-based. You have to support those around you for everybody to flourish.”

With the regional focus on drinks and an eclectic menu in place, Eaton Rapids Craft Co. may have found its stride – erratic drivers aside. However, nothing ever remains static for too long in the restaurant business. Change is the rule of the game.

“I think you have to listen to what people want,” Kristin said. “We’re always changing. You have to change. If you don’t, you get left behind.”

Eaton Rapids Craft Co. is open from 3 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to midnight Friday through Sunday. For more information, call (517) 441-9296 or visit facebook.com/Eaton-Rapids-Craft-Co-193504387683662/.


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