11601 S. Lacore Rd
Empire, Michigan 49630 231-326-5101
Joe's Friendly Tavern
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Award winning house ground
for Daily Specials
Open Daily 11 am - 11 pm
Pizza - Sandwiches - Dinners - Cocktails
The Empire Village Inn was built in 1958 by Ted Mead Sr. for Grand Haven Michigan residents, Ted and Naomi Nash. In those days the contractor also drew up the plans for the building. Ted Mead Jr. (Teddy) remembers the two older Teds sitting at the Mead’s dining room table discussing the building while Ted Sr. drew the plans. It was Teddy’s job to drive to Gaylord and pick up construction supplies.
The business opened in 1959 with the name “Village Inn”. In old pictures one can see the original pine paneled bar and brick wall with fireplace. The original Village Inn served beer, wine and very simple bar food
After just a few years Ted and Naomi were followed by a number of colorful owners. One was known as “Black Ann”. It seems that some of the patrons were equally colorful and there are rumors of fights, stabbings, motorcycle clubs and even ghosts!!
In 1971 an addition was built on the North end of the building which included a kitchen.
Bob Ihme bought the bar in 1977 and changed the name to “The Good Times Kitchen” and “The Hard Times Saloon”. Another colorful character by all accounts, Bob presided over the “Big Ball”, a softball tournament between local bars and their employees. Folks would show up for a weekend of baseball, camping, camaraderie and drinking!! It was Bob who covered the original pine paneling on the bar.
The name was changed to “The Empire Village Inn” by Mike Wiesen when he bought the bar in 1987. Mike installed new and larger windows and a dance floor. He took out the fireplace, added a full kitchen and expanded the menu to include pizza, appetizers and sandwiches. Mike acquired four pizza ovens from a going out of business sale. One of those ovens is still in use at the Village Inn, the other three, it is said, were sold to a company that makes prosthetic limbs. Apparently they are in use to “bake” the items at some point in their creation.
Teddy Mead was employed from 1988 until his retirement from the EVI in 2009. He remains a well-liked and well-remembered friend of the patrons, employees and owners.
The Lerchen family bought the EVI in 2006. They have continued to improve the building and expand the menu. Among other things the kitchen has been made more attractive and accessible and the original pine paneling on the bar has been exposed. A wall was built near the North end of the building and Gemma’s Coffee Shop was installed in 2011. Today the Empire Village Inn is a family friendly place for pizza, local beers, cocktails and sandwiches and after you’ve enjoyed your lunch or dinner you can wander over to Gemma’s for coffee, home baked pastries and ice cream!!
Be sure to visit our other location
EMPIRE VILLAGE INN.