The Lucky Wolf: Tragedy, Triumph and Transformation at Paw Paw Venue
Written by Eric Mitts. Photo: India Deibler-Love and The Lucky Wolf. Courtesy of Kennedy LaPlace


When Jason Deibler-Love, owner of The Lucky Wolf, first moved to West Michigan a little over two and a half years ago, he knew his life would change.

He just had no idea how much.

Relocating to the village of Paw Paw – less than a half-hour southwest of Kalamazoo – Diebler-Love had left behind the high-costs of Los Angeles for the freedom of small town living. His wife, India, was pregnant with twins, and along with their young son Sebastien Wolf (who ultimately became the namesake of their new business), moved into a historic farmhouse to start fresh.

Although Deibler-Love has ties to Michigan, having grown up in Royal Oak, he had no connections to Paw Paw. He did have a long history of working in hotels and venue management, working in those industries for nearly three decades in cities like New York, New Orleans, and Austin.

“We moved to Paw Paw because we had found an old house up here that she was in love with,” Deibler-Love said. “And then we discovered Paw Paw, and discovered that Michigan has wineries…  And with all the climate change (Southwest Michigan) is becoming a really hot spot for wine.”

Initially wanting to look into starting a hotel here, Deibler-Love instead found the old Paw Paw Village Playhouse. Originally built as a Baptist Church back in 1857, the building was bought by Bill Hawley of the Village Players, now a Lucky Wolf regular after selling the property to Deibler-Love.

“He (Hawley) bought it from the Baptists in 1970 and added 20 more feet onto the back of the building to create the theater,” Deibler-Love said. “Sometime in the ‘20s, they moved the stage upstairs, probably to make more Sunday school classrooms down here. So for us, it ended up being perfect because you’ve got a café lounge, wine bar down here. And then upstairs is this historic theater. And people will come in, and they’ll be like, ‘We had no idea this was here.’”

They opened The Lucky Wolf in September 2022, emphasizing entertainment, along with local coffee, wine, and vegan and gluten-free food options not readily available in the area. They offered something new, and made the renovated space their own, tearing out the walls and repainting everything—partnering with fellow Paw Paw entrepreneurs Green Glass Coffee Company.

“We had our twins in November (2022), and we closed on this in December, so it was a blur,” Deibler-Love said. “For the first six months we were literally Googling if it’s legal to serve alcohol with a baby hanging on you, because you don’t know. So we did a soft opening just to continue, while we were working on it.”

They secured grants for further sound and lighting renovations to the theater upstairs, and added an outside patio and ADA wheelchair ramp.

A musician himself, Deibler-Love said they are all about the artist, even offering an artist apartment in another building they’re renovating.

“It’s not just music,” Deibler-Love said. “One of our employees has an entire pottery kiln business, and has this beautiful art that we sell here too. And another employee, we just taped his first comedy special down in our lower venue.

“We’re here because people supported and helped us, so let’s continue to do that,” he added. “The venue itself, we took pieces from all of our lives, from Europe to New York to Austin to New Orleans… There’s absolutely no reason people in Southwest Michigan can’t get that same experience without having to go to a major city.”

Their shared success became tragically bittersweet when India died unexpectedly last November.

“I had employees that worked for us for six months that had left for college in northern Arizona and the Upper Peninsula, and they all flew in within three days for the celebration of life that we held for her, because they’re like, “I’m who I am because of what India did for us, and what you guys gave us here,’” Deibler-Love said. “So it’s a tragic loss… but it’s been special seeing the reciprocation of what we’ve been trying to do for people.”

The Lucky Wolf continues to grow and honor India’s impact and legacy in everything they do, from planning a massive mural outside for the outside of the building, to creating a family-friendly setting where adults can enjoy a show and a glass of Michigan wine, or local craft cocktail, while feeling like they’re in their new home away from home.

“Now that we’ve had a big loss, much of how we feel comforted is because of what we’ve created,” Deibler-Love said. “This one lady came in, she must be 60 years old, and she’s just like, ‘Listen, I come every week now. I followed what you guys are doing, and I didn’t come in. And then India died, and it broke my heart.’ She goes, ‘I wrestled with depression, and I still do. I come here every week now, and I’m so sad that I missed it before, and I never came earlier. But I always wanted to.’ And now she’s literally here every week, and it’s just amazing.”

This month The Lucky Wolf will host the children’s musical “The Midnight Ride of Sybil Ludington” May 4-5, blues-rock artists Brother Jefferson and Dean Madonia May 10, comedian Jeff Leeson May 16, and in a partnership with Sounds of the Zoo, local musicians Jordan Hamilton, Normal Mode, and Brandon Fitzpatrick on May 18. 

The Lucky Wolf

404 E. Michigan Ave., Paw Paw, (269) 913-4153