ZEELAND — An unexpected partnership formed during the COVID-19 pandemic will bring a new restaurant to downtown Zeeland.

It all began when restaurant owner Teresa Vander Zwaag of The Farmhouse and her husband, Tim, began seeking a place for private events, where their customers could enjoy small party sizes and social distancing.

They approached Shane Hammer — current owner of Frank’s Restaurant and great-grandson of original founders Frank and Mary Dionise, who opened the business in 1924. 

The restauranteurs didn’t know one another, but Hammer was facing problems of his own. Hours at Frank’s were limited to curbside orders, and the banquet facility next door — remodeled in 2013 — was sitting unused at 136 E. Main Ave. Happy to have someone in the space, a partnership was born.

Together, the team worked to reopen Frank’s. Hammer needed staff, so Vander Zwaag stepped in. They brought back the “legendary” Frank’s lunch hour, six days a week. In their time as partners, Vander Zwaag and Hammer began dreaming of a more permanent use for the banquet space next door.

Frank's Restaurant has been a Zeeland staple since 1924, and claims the title of "longest running restaurant" in the Holland/Zeeland area.

Vander Zwaag purchased the liquor license from outgoing restaurant Elbow Room, and began the process of having it transferred to 136 E. Main. Now, a new restaurant will be born in the space.

According to Vander Zwaag, the restaurants will have different names and addresses, but will share restrooms, a hallway and a kitchen. They’ll also share a menu, though customers won’t find alcohol at the original Frank’s Restaurant.