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Grand Rapids is a wonderful coffee town, now even better with the addition of a new Sparrows Coffee location built in a remodeled greenhouse located next to a beloved local market. Let's take a closer look!

As told to Sprudge by Tim Volkema.

The 2021 season of Build-Outs is presented by Fellow. The series is sponsored by La Marzocco, Pacific Barista Series, Marco Beverage Systems, Dona, and Sustainable Harvest.

For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?

Sparrows has been serving the Grand Rapids community since 2007. In 2017, we began roasting and wholesaling coffee of our own, spreading the love outside of our Wealthy Street walls. Along with advocating for well sourced and expertly prepared coffee, Sparrows has continually supported literary arts within the community. Lori Slager, founder of Sparrows, co-founded and led the Creative Youth Center, a local organization that prepares kids for life’s adventures by supporting their writing and amplifying their voices. Our Eastown cafe also houses Marvelous Me Books, a children’s book store who celebrates every child for exactly who they are. We were purchased by Schuil Coffee in 2018 and operate independently while benefitting from their support resources.

Can you tell us a bit about the new space?

The new cafe space is located in Grand Rapids’ Creston neighborhood, connected to the locally-beloved Kingma’s Market. Housed within a former greenhouse, the space is teeming with natural light from its floor to ceiling windows, one of which opens as a garage door onto a lushly landscaped patio. Its aesthetics borrow less from a traditional third wave coffee bar, and more from contemporary styles you might find in an LA wine bar. Its location is ideal for the morning commute, situated on a main road into the city with ample easy-access parking. Small but mighty in size, its relatively low-seating capacity feels all the while big, with tall ceilings that help the space feel even more open and airy.

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What’s your approach to coffee?

Our roasting program hones in on the feelings a coffee imbues upon its drinker. Some take us down memory lane, with their nostalgic depth and warmth. Others center us, harmoniously balancing crisp, clean, and crushable flavors. Some can even evoke our adventurous spirit, transporting us to far-off lands, permeating a distinct sense of place. We think there’s no better way to offer our coffees than something so fundamental as feeling, and we’re eager to provide our drinkers with cravable cups of whatever their feel may be.

As with many other brands, we also pay great mind to responsible buying practices, putting emphasis on long-standing relationships and fair payment to growers. Through the help of wonderful import partners and supply chain advisors, we’ve worked to cultivate many buying relationships we’re proud to be a part of and support. Furthermore, our buyers are mindful to prioritize work with projects that support social justice in the industry. Partners like JNP Coffee and Artisan Coffee both work to empower women growers in East Africa, while our organizational partnership with Food 4 Farmers supports increased food security for coffee farming families in Latin America.

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Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?

We have mostly standards lined up for equipment:

Synesso S200 for espresso
Mahlkönig E65S for espresso grind
Mahlkönig EK43 for drip grind
Curtis G4 Twin for larger batch drip
Ratio Brewer for smaller batch drip

We love all of our children (aka all of our coffees are special :-)

How is your project considering sustainability?

Our company considers environmental responsibility in several ways. We use as many compostable products as possible, from our coffee bags to the travel cups and lids served in the cafe. Baristas encourage customers to purchase and use reusable Sparrows mugs as well. Also composted are all coffee byproducts in our roastery and cafe, including spent coffee grounds and roasting chaff. We also buy and serve coffee primarily from farms who use environmentally conscious practices, some certified organic and others not.

Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?

Yes, we worked with many local firms, such as woman-owned design/build partner Metric Structures, Grayling Ceramics, and Windscapes Landscaping for our outdoor space.

Thank you!

Sparrows Coffee is located at 2225 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids. Visit their official website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

The 2021 season of Build-Outs is presented by Fellow. The series is sponsored by La Marzocco, Pacific Barista Series, Marco Beverage Systems, Dona, and Sustainable Harvest.