Unicorn Tavern: Uncovering the Magic

Garry Boyd in front of the ‘family wall’ at The Unicorn Tavern.

Garry Boyd in front of the ‘family wall’ at The Unicorn Tavern.

Sam Priddy, Reporter

On Thursday, I sat down with Garry Boyd. He’s the owner of the new Unicorn Tavern in Grand Haven, and since we don’t get a lot of fresh, good food on this side of the state, I wanted to talk to him a little bit about his story. 

Firstly, I asked him if he was a local in this area. He told me he’d lived here longer than he hadn’t. He told me that he got into the food business here and he wanted to keep his family here. He told me that he had his first job in Grand Haven, specifically, thirty years ago he started bussing tables at the Kirby House. “I fell in love,” He admitted, “and fifteen months later I was General Manager.” He told me he loved the job, and he was GM for nearly a decade. Being around customers was an important part, even though he liked the statistical elements as well. After he left working at Kirby House, he started his own restaurant, HopCat, in Grand Rapids. He managed 19 locations before eventually moving back to West Michigan, because he wanted to be with his daughter, Mackenzie. 

Mackenzie was born with Down Syndrome and a hole in her heart. Before she was even born, they weren’t even sure she would survive. “Getting the news she had Down Syndrome was the best news I’d ever gotten,” he confessed, “it meant she would survive.” Of course, he was afraid, there are so many unknowns, so many questions. But after Mackenzie’s birth in early 2010, his mind changed completely.  “Imagine seeing a unicorn in the woods. Imagine the effect that would have on your life. That’s what Mackenzie was to me.” 

After Mackenzie’s death, he wanted to be with his family. He wanted to spend as much time with them as he could. Opening the Unicorn Tavern, though, proved a challenge. They were forced to open without a liquor license, not because they didn’t get it, but because delays in the mail system forced back the delivery of the actual, physical license. It proved to actually be a reward, though, as not serving liquor helped him and other staff members focus on customer and food service. “Our cooks got two weeks’ worth of muscle memory in one week,” he said, “since we were only getting food orders.” The grand opening was a massive success, and he told me that he feels incredibly fortunate. “Our staff is amazing, they’re like family,” He laughed, “and honestly, they fill the gap Mackenzie left behind.” 

Overall, the Unicorn Tavern is run by some truly amazing people, and I feel very fortunate and grateful I was able to sit down with one of the owners. He’s genuinely a really cool guy, and I would definitely recommend talking to him next time you visit the Unicorn Tavern in east Grand Rapids.