New year, new shop for Madcap Coffee Roasters, who just this week opened a stunning 20 seat coffee bar inside of the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids. With a sleek modern design and gear by Modbar, Mahlkonig, and Wilbur Curtis Company, the new space is built to draw in folks shopping, snacking, and hanging out at the market. With a lightning quick build-out process (lease was signed early October) and an eye towards attracting folks not yet familiar with their brand, Madcap’s new cafe prizes accessibility—think espresso milk shakes—while keeping the coffee experience hallowed and special, with an emphasis on for-here glassware and special events (like this weekend’s Ethiopia Varietal Series tasting).
It’s part and parcel with the continued growth of Grand Rapids as a major destination for art, beer, and coffee, and dovetails with one of our favorite ongoing coffee trends: progressive coffee bars in cool public markets around the world, from Malmö to Michigan. Madcap’s new cafe is designed by Seth Herman and built by Studiowise.
Sprudge co-founder Jordan Michelman spoke digitally with Madcap CEO (and 2016 Eastern Conference Barista Champion) Trevor Corlett to learn more about the new project heading into opening weekend.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
Hey Trevor! To start, talk to us about the story behind this project — how did the ball get rolling? What made you guys say “yes” to the spot?
This project actually happened really fast. The Downtown Market in Grand Rapids had a previous coffee vendor that moved out in September. They approached us about taking over the space and we signed the lease in early October I believe. We were interested in being part of the market both to be part of the synergy of a space like that, but also with the idea that it offered an opportunity to provide a very unique coffee and service experience for us.
For folks unfamiliar with Grand Rapids, talk to us a bit about the Downtown Market and what goes on there. Who else are some of your neighbors?
It’s similar to market concepts you see in a lot of other cities; Grand Central Market in L.A., Union Market in D.C., Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco, etc. Our closest neighbors include Apertivo, Fish Lads, Rocket Pies, and Love’s Ice Cream.
What are some of the challenges of serving coffee in a food hall setting? What are some of the big opportunities?
Well, we’ve only been open a few day days but so far the main foot traffic hits around lunch time and later. Due to that we’re hoping to become a draw for folks to begin hitting the market earlier in the day. Also, it provides a huge opportunity to expose people to Madcap who are there to shop for other things and don’t know about us or wouldn’t normally seek us out.
Talk geeky to me — what gear is at this shop, and what modes of service are you offering (batch brew, pour over, grab & go)?
Our motivation gear wise was to go with stuff we know and would fit best to the concept.
For espresso we’re rocking two Modbar espresso group taps, two steam taps (we’ve actually stationed the two steam taps next to each other rather than set-up like a traditional machine to make it really easy and efficient to double bar), and two Mahlkonig Peak grinders. For pour-over everything is automated with two Modbar pour-over units. We are also doing batch brew using a twin Curtis Thermopro brewer. We have a Mahlkonig EK43 grinder servicing all filtered coffee as well as doing decaf EK shots. We have a Waring DMC 3-head mixer for rocking out our espresso milk shakes. Last but not least we have six taps where we are rotating sparkling water, nitro cold coffee, cascara soda, and some seasonal signature drinks.
All drinks for here are being served in glassware rather than ceramics matching the “bar” feel of the space. All drinks are available for take-away as well.
Did you work with any design collaborators on your new bar?
Our bar was designed in-house by our very own Seth Herman.
As a team we really wanted something that was clean, bold and made a statement about the direction Madcap wants to head with our retail spaces. The bar is massive, being round and containing 20 seats. It’s very open and bright with a halo light fixture hovering over the bar making it feel more intimate. The bar makes you want to bar up, sit down and enjoy a coffee.
The bar was produced by a local company called Studio Wise.
What will your hours be? Any grand opening event planned?
Our hours are Monday – Friday 8am – 7pm, Saturday 9am – 7pm, and Sunday 10am – 7pm
We’re having some Grand Opening fun this Saturday, January 7th starting with a tasting of our Ethiopia Series at 9am. The rest of the day will involve a sampling of a lot of our exclusive-to-the-market drinks such as the espresso milk shakes (in collaboration with our neighbor Love’s Ice Cream, we’ll have both dairy and non-dairy shake options), an Egg Cream made with Nitro Cold Coffee, and others. We’ll also be doing some fun giveaways including an instagram contest with photos from our new space that will result in the chance to win one of our Madcap/Miir howlers.
Madcap has had a front row seat—probably more like a spot in the starting line-up, honestly—as part of the ongoing revitalization of Grand Rapids. Talk to me about how the city has changed since you first opened shop, and where it’s going next.
Wow! Thanks. I really think a big part of it was us picking the right time to take a risk and contribute to the city at the same time as a lot of others. The city has grown so much and so fast. I don’t even need to go into how big the craft beer scene is here or how much it continues to grow. Beyond that there is a large art scene, a growing food scene, and a vibrant community that cares about the overall growth of this city and invest in making it a great place to live and work.
Any opening week coffees you’re really excited to serve at the new spot?
Honestly, Karinga is a new coffee for us from Kenya that is blowing us away. It’s from the Thika District located just north of Nairobi. The name of the coffee comes from the name of the “factory”, or processing center, which is Karinga. Ryan [Knapp, co-founder & green buyer at Madcap] has had his eye on this coffee for a number of years but this is the first year he pulled the trigger. This coffee packs lots of tropical fruit, big and juicy, while being tea-like. Definitely a must try coffee.
Jordan Michelman is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Jordan Michelman on Sprudge.