Hold up your hand like a mitten, then touch where your pinky meets the fleshy part of the palm, and that’s where you’ll find the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. This place has long been know for great coffee, and today we’re taking a closer look at the work of Last Mile Cafe, “a local Black- and Woman-owned premium coffee company” with a unique take on Grand Rapids’ thriving coffee culture. They’ll open up shop a little later on this summer, making this an exciting Build-Out to watch in the months to come.
As told to Sprudge by MacKenzie Tollas.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
Last Mile Cafe is a local Black- and Woman-owned premium coffee company in Grand Rapids, MI. We are changing the coffee experience to be more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable, and to set an example for doing business better. 10% of our revenue is donated to causes chosen by our customers. We ethically and sustainably source our beans. Our packaging and shipping materials are compostable as well. We offer four different roasts: Reasonable Doubt, an Ethiopian light roast; The Lost Boy, a medium-dark blend from Guatemala, Colombia, and Burundi; 4, a Oaxaca medium roast, and; Thank Me Later, a naturally decaffeinated medium roast.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
After a year of being in business, we are opening up our first physical storefront. This will be the first flagship location, where we will also begin roasting our own coffee. As we scale our brand, we will continue to open destination flagship locations throughout the country to expand roasting and shipping capacity and to build brand awareness. We are committed to growing our business in historically disenfranchised communities. Our Co-Founder, Arick Davis, grew up in 49507 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, an area that has been struck with lead poisoning, violence, and underperforming schools. We are only considering properties that fall in similar neighborhoods for our physical locations. Because we are an e-commerce and delivery focused experience, we do not have to rely on high-income areas to support foot traffic. We can bring convenience to our customers while having an uplifting experience in our community with our presence and financial commitment.
What’s your approach to coffee?
In addition to our environmental and social impact goals, we strive to offer an assortment of smooth flavorful coffees with clear tasting notes. We want our coffees to be accessible and easy to brew. Beyond taste, our approach to coffee comes down to our three pillars: community, convenience, and ownership. We want to support and uplift the communities in which we are located. We believe people deserve to enjoy a premium coffee experience from wherever they are. Fostering ownership, influence, and input from our customers at every step is important to ensuring that we are changing the narrative of coffee to be more inclusive. We will bring data, efficiency, and ownership to an industry that is relatively behind.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
We will order our own roaster, weigh-and-fill, espresso machine, automatic tamper, and grinders. We are still making decisions on which specific brand/models to buy.
How is your project considering sustainability?
Our sustainability efforts are guided by our goal to set an example for the industry when it comes to protecting natural resources and reducing our impact on the environment. For us this has meant: compostable packaging and labels, compostable shipping materials, and reducing emissions by sourcing locally when possible. We are members of the Grand Rapids Climate Coalition, 1% for the Planet, and the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum. We are also in the process of applying for our B-Corp Certification. We are choosing sustainable options throughout our production process. Many of our coffees are naturally processed, which means they use much less water during the harvest. As we expand, we will maximize sustainability at every step by implementing renewable-energy powered workstations and electric vehicles for delivery.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
We are hoping to host a Grand Opening on August 21, 2022.
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
We have been working closely with architect Isaac Norris and interior designer Tiffany Thornton of Tiffany Eden Design to make this space come to life. Both of them are local to Grand Rapids, MI. We are also talking to RDY, an innovative order ahead coffee app that uses geo-location services to deliver perfectly timed beverages. We plan to subscribe to their app once the cafe is open.