Ray’s Barbecue Brews & Blues opens in Grayling
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
A new restaurant recently opened on a landmark piece of property located on the AuSable River in Grayling.
Ray’s Barbecue Brews & Blues, located at 204 Ingham Street, opened for business on March 15 next to the Old AuSable Fly Shop.
Bill Huddelston founded “Sailor Bill Huddelston's Fly Factory and Boat Livery” on the property in the mid-1930s.
The name of the restaurant pays tribute to Ray Snider, who purchased the business in 1945, and it became Ray’s Canoe Livery and Fly Factory. Snider built the log building on the former site of the business in 1945, modeling it after the old lumbering museum at the Hartwick Pines State Park.
The ownership of the business changed a couple of times, before it became the Old AuSable Fly Shop in 2008.
The same ownership group for the Old AuSable Fly Shop, Jeffrey Gardner, Linda Matas, and Albert A. Depolo, a local physician, built the restaurant.
Gardner said people still refer to the property as “Ray’s,” and a neon sign from the canoe livery is being refurbished to go on the restaurant building.
“Instead of trying to invent a brand name, we just decided we would bring it back,” Gardner said.
The restaurant has 30 craft beers on tap as well as Michigan wines and spirits. Domestic beer is served in bottles.
The restaurant features barbecue and blues music since they both share the same Southern origins.
“It’s goes good with barbecue and beer,” Gardner said of the featured music.
The restaurant also features meal specials, salads, fish, a gourmet burger, and specialty sandwiches.
The restaurant was initially opened to serve dinner customers.
“We’ve been using the first month or so to get our feet on the ground and get things sorted out,” Gardner said.
On Monday, April 24, Ray’s Barbecue Brews & Blues started serving lunch, with an expanded menu featuring a number of specialty sandwiches.
The owners worked with consultants to gauge the demand for the restaurant. In addition, Gardner said his friend, Mike Connors, the owner of the Apache Trout Grill in Traverse City, urged him to build the restaurant on the property.
The restaurant has a large patio for outside dining along the AuSable River.
“There’s nowhere else in this area that you can do that,” Gardner said.
The owners are pleased to be part of the economic development initiatives taking place in Grayling.
“When more people come to town, all of the businesses do better,” Gardner said.
Gardner said the restaurant will complement the brew pubs, other eateries, and the Rialto Theater to attract more business and visitors to Grayling.
“Grayling is becoming a hip little town,” Gardner said. “It’s just nice to come to Grayling and be able to go to several different restaurants, several different breweries, and experience some things without having to go to Gaylord or Traverse City.”
When fully staffed, Ray’s Barbecue Brews & Blues will have a workforce of 40 employees.