Cooking up a passion for business: A restaurant love story

For Alex and Sylene Wilkening, starting a sandwich shop in Grand Rapids is a dream come true.

“I remember telling my parents at the age of nine that I wanted to be a chef,” Wilkening said.

After nearly 10 years of dreaming and planning, the couple — who met at a restaurant during college — opened

The Grain Sandwich Shop in 2017 to provide delicious, locally-sourced sandwiches to their customers.

“It is the typical restaurant love story: the line cook meets a waitress, and they fall in love and dream of starting a restaurant together,” Wilkening said. “For us, it actually happened. After college, we had great jobs, married, traveled, saved money and dreamed of starting this place.”

Wilkening knew they needed to be intentional to ensure business success.

“Not only did we have strong business plans and a great location, we had a love for good food and a passion for creating community,” Wilkening said. “For us it isn’t just a restaurant, it is our life.”

The Grain Sandwich Shop sources its products from local vendors and smokes its meats in-house.

“We are passionate about supporting and shopping local because that is important for the economic development of our community,” Wilkening said.

After starting this business, Wilkening noted how extremely grateful he was for his Davenport education.

“I believe my education and the W.A. Lettinga Charter Scholarship helped make my dream of starting a restaurant a reality,” Wilkening said. “Davenport set the foundation for the accounting, marketing and business concepts that I needed to be an entrepreneur and restaurant owner. The scholarship gave me the financial freedom to live my dream.”

Visit the Grain Sandwich Shop

812 Butterworth St. SW, Suite A
Grand Rapids, MI 49504

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