In the early hours of Feb. 3, a fire destroyed Lansing Eastside Gateway, taking the life of one of its most dedicated staffers, 43-year-old John Bolan – someone Yvonne LeFave, founder of Lansing Eastside Gateway, considered a friend.
LeFave’s other business, Go Green Trikes, a delivery service using heavy-duty electric-assist tricycles, sustained heavy losses in the fire; however, thanks to a client, Go Green would soon be up and running. As LeFave said, “My clients are wonderful.” That still leaves the future of Lansing Eastside Gateway in question, but that’s starting over, too.
Lansing Eastside Gateway put retailing within reach of people who might otherwise not get a shot at it. Products for sale there included everything from local honey to original art.
It gave entrepreneurs a “leg up,” as LeFave puts it.
Cleanup and recycling events have taken place, and as of this writing, LeFave was awaiting a demolition permit. “Lansing Eastside Gateway” and “Friends of Yvonne” are Facebook pages where friends and interested parties document and follow Lansing Eastside Gateway’s progress. Two such friends are Lisa Scieszka-Howard, owner and designer at Smitten with Mittens, and Jill Kazee of The Divine Lotus Tea Room and Spa. Scieszka-Howard makes one-of-a-kind woolen mittens. Kazee focuses on natural relaxation techniques. Both businesses have Facebook pages and both women have been with LeFave since Lansing Eastside Gateway’s beginnings.
The plan is to rebuild on the same site, since the land is paid for and perfect for their needs. Insurance money isn’t enough to rebuild at today’s prices, so work will be done in phases with events and crowdfunding to help.
Phase I will be a 30-foot-by-80-foot pavilion and detached garage for the trikes. Phase II, the main building, might take longer. LeFave and her group are working with Amanda Harrell-Seyburn of East Arbor Architecture, and while LeFave said it’s too early to share preliminary drawings, she added that “they’re stunning … and worth the wait.”
“We’ll have some different vendors, some new staff and eventually a new space,” said LeFave. “All of that will create a different dynamic and will affect the community that surrounds it. It may be better for all we know – that’s the hope. But we also hope to retain our core of being a vital, helpful service to those wishing to start a small business or support local businesses on the eastside.”
“The hardest part for me?” added LeFave, who described Bolan as irreplaceable, “Trying to recreate the magic. I know it will be different; you can’t wade in the same river twice, but it’s so tempting to try.”