Let’s be real. I just spent a lot of time trying to write the story for the “About Us” page in third person. But then I came to the realization that it’s the “About US” page, not “About THEM” so why am I pretending I’m a third-party person telling the story of the Three Blondes when it’s really just me – Carrie, Blonde #2. Besides, my sisters don’t have the password to the website, so I’m telling our story my way.
For those of you who find yourself reading this, thanks for your interest! Like I said, I’m Carrie, the attention-seeking middle sister (hence my hijacking of the “About Us” page), my older sister is Megan, and Amanda is the baby of the family. Together, we are The Three Blondes and yes, we “humbly” named the brewery after ourselves. Although admittedly, my natural hair color is more of a dirty blonde so my sisters make me dye my hair lighter to fit in, but I digress. Joining us on this adventure in brewery ownership are our husbands, but “Three Blondes and Their Husbands” just didn’t sound as cool.
We were born and raised in South Haven, attended South Haven high school (Go Rams!), and took for granted the beautiful lakeshore town in which we grew up. Our parents, Ray and Linda, own and operate VanDerZee Motorplex in town, which is a Kawasaki/Yamaha powersports dealership (and now neighbor to 3BB). So growing up, my sisters and I were very lucky to spend every Sunday in the summer “water testing” the Jet Skis on Lake Michigan with our friends and family. But despite the small-town charm of South Haven, Megan and I both wanted to move far away to bigger cities after high school – Megan went to CMU, then moved to Phoenix, met Matt (an actual rocket scientist), and obviously married him. I made it as far as Kalamazoo College for school, moved to Grand Rapids to work in accounting, and eventually married a fellow business/finance nerd, Adam (thanks, Match.com). Amanda ventured to WMU for college, then moved next door to our parents’ house in South Haven, and married her high school sweetheart, Joe (who is now the general manager at the Motorplex). Did I mention our parents were also high school sweethearts who grew up in South Haven and moved across the street from their parents after graduating from Western and getting married? They say history repeats itself. Oh, and Amanda and Joe also have three blonde daughters, so they are already raising the next generation of Three Blondes.
Now, how do we go from the above descriptions and backgrounds to opening a brewery? That’s the (two) million-dollar question. First, Megan couldn’t resist the draw of west Michigan for long, so she and Matt moved back from Arizona to start a family. That put me and my sisters in close proximity once again, and family gatherings in SH were frequent. Meanwhile, craft breweries were popping up everywhere, creating cool community gathering places and even revitalizing small neighborhoods and towns. We all wondered with excitement, “when is one going to open in South Haven?”
As we waited, the ideas started brewing (see what I did there?) - what if WE started a brewery in South Haven? The ideas turned to research, research led to possibilities, and possibilities turned into planning. Throw in a lot of savings, a ton of hometown pride and faith in our community, and a little bit of crazy and suddenly Three Blondes Brewing was in motion. We wanted to create a place where family, friends, locals, and tourists could gather to experience exceptional South Haven beer with a unique, locally-based menu, and where parking spots were aplenty.
But, seeing as this is the first brewery/restaurant we’ve ever opened, we knew we needed to assess the skill sets and talent of the six of us and seek out the expertise of others where we were lacking in experience. For the brewery side, we welcomed Jake Demski to our team. He is an extremely talented brewer who makes phenomenal beer as evidenced by his success as former head brewer at Greenbush. For the restaurant side, Amanda may have worked at Sherman Dairy in high school, but we knew that didn’t qualify her to run a restaurant, so we consulted with master chef and restaurant/hospitality extraordinaire, Sean Marr (who also happens to be an SH grad). He designed our kitchen layout, developed our unique hand-crafted menu, hired and trained staff, and even stayed on with us for six months to ensure we were on the path to success. We then promoted our Kitchen Manager, Austin Null, to take on the role as GM and Head Chef. Austin is an outstanding chef and creates amazing dishes for Three Blondes Brewing (and he’s also a fellow South Haven graduate!). We are so thrilled and fortunate to have these exceptionally gifted guys join our team and help make the vision of 3BB a reality.
As we counted down the days until we opened our doors to the community in June 2018, our excitement was higher than the swells between the Black River pier heads during a big storm and larger than a double waffle cone at Sherman’s. We made sure we did everything the right way and sometimes that took more patience than waiting for the Dyckman bridge to close at the height of summer. But, just like my dad says about the Motorplex, “Be Ready To Be Amazed!” at Three Blondes Brewing. We are so thankful for the support we’ve received since opening and we’re thrilled to bring craft beer and food to the South Haven community. CHEERS!