The Rapidian

Tip Top Deluxe Bar and Grill delivers hotspot for Americana music

Ted Smith, one of the owners of Tip Top, sits down with The Rapidian to discuss the progress over the past year and some thoughts for the future.
Ted Smith, one of the owners of Tip Top Deluxe Bar and Grill

Ted Smith, one of the owners of Tip Top Deluxe Bar and Grill /Jonathan Stoner

Underwriting support from:

Upcoming shows at Tip Top

Hold- Sunday, July 22

David Thom Band- Thursday, July 26

Big Boss Blues Band- Friday, July 27 

Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express- Saturday, July 28

Bob Wayne & The Outlaw Carnies- Tuesday, July 31

Flashing Blue Lights- Saturday, August 4

Adam Lee & the Dead Horse Sound Company, Swaggerin Growlers- Tuesday August 7

June 24 marked the year anniversary of the day Ted Smith and Frank Lennon opened the doors of Tip Top Deluxe Bar and Grill for the first time. The building located at 760 Butterworth St on the southwest side of Grand Rapids provides customers with an old school atmosphere that supports a mix of styles, says Smith. But for this bar, it’s the music that makes it stand out from others around the city.

“We made a conscious effort not to be the cookie cutter bar. We wanted to be different,” says Smith. “We like what people call ‘root’ music, basically blues based music, whether that’s rockabilly, bluegrass or blues.” The American music bar also includes other forms that essentially started in the country such as jazz, rock, and honky-tonk. 

They have also hosted a “back to the future” night, where there is a mix of 80’s new wave and 50’s rock and roll. But the owner says they choose to stray away from metal and hip-hop nights.

Smith and Devilyn Carver are the individuals behind choosing the musicians who play at Tip Top. Smith says he leans toward the bands that have more of a rockabilly sound to them, whereas Carver is more interested in bluegrass, punk and acoustic- artists who are a little edgier. 

In the past, Tip Top has hosted artists such as JD McPherson, Wayne Hancock, Deke Dickerson and Pete Anderson. Some of them have come back to play the venue more than once.

“Location is probably the hardest thing we have to work against,” Smith says. “My initial hope was that people would come in, play the jukebox, grab a burger, drink a beer and have a good time. But we have had to focus on booking the shows for people to come here. It really is just a destination, since it is just off the strip.”

Since there aren’t other bars next door, people can’t just bar hop, so the challenge has been getting people aware of the bar and willing to “venture off the beaten track,” say Smith.

Smith is hopeful for the future, saying that there are a lot of positive things going on on the West Side with the expansion of Grand Valley State University, the John Ball Zoo, and Millennium Park being close by. The bar is also signed up to be a venue for ArtPrize this year.  

Although Tip Top adds one more bar to the list of several that make up Grand Rapids, Smith doesn’t look at the numbers from a competition standpoint. He says they are not competing with any single bar and that he hopes in some way there could be a sort of “symbiosis” with other bars in the area.

“You just have to fight to stay alive," says Smith. "You can’t focus on what other bars are doing, you just need to make good decisions for your own business.”

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