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Build-Outs of Summer: Glassbox Coffee In Ann Arbor...

Build-Outs of Summer: Glassbox Coffee In Ann Arbor, Michigan

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You guys, we are not kidding about this Build-Outs of Summer thing. There are so many great new shops for us to report on, in markets big and small, and it’s going to be a hoot to share them all with you all summer long. Next up on the Build-Outs train is Glassbox Coffee in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The folks at Glassbox have a flagship location up and running at the corner of S. University and Washtenaw, serving up espresso, brewed coffee, and raw juice. Coming in August, Glassbox will open their second location in a high-end shopping center, featuring what may be the country’s first-ever Alpha Dominche Steampunk and Modbar combo, plus espresso from MadCap and brewed coffee from top roasters across the country.

It’s a pleasure to learn about these new shops before they open, but for this one in particular, Sprudge.com’s Editorial and International Desk staff have been drooling over Glassbox in advance of this feature. A roster of extraordinary roasters, sweet new gear to play with, and delicious raw juice? Yes please.

Putting the mitten on map, let’s learn more about Glassbox Two.

As told to Sprudge by Jason Friend of Glassbox Coffee. 

Can you tell us a bit about your new space? 

We are opening in a cool new outdoor shopping center called Arbor Hills Crossing. Honestly we might never get an opportunity like this again, rarely are independent shops given the chance to open in such high end developments. The developers have done a amazing job of mixing some stellar national stores like Lululemon, Brooks Brother’s Flatiron Shop, Anthropology, Sur La Table, Jcrew’s Madewell along with a few select local restaurants. It will definitely be a destination spot for much of the region.

The space itself is great with super high ceilings, giant windows that flood the place with light as well as way more sq footage (2200) than I am used to. This enabled us to do my dream layout of having the bar area smack in the center of the space, with seating essentially all around the sides. This is our second store that we have worked with BKSK Architects out of NYC. They also designed the entire development, which is quiet unique and modern. It definitely will not be mistaken for a strip mall.

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What’s your approach to serving coffee? 

We just try to serve the best coffee we can get our hands on, and serve it with a smile. For espresso we are working exclusively with our instate neighbors Madcap. As far as coffee we will be blind cupping everyweek to decide what goes on our menu. We are looking for coffees that reflect the taste profiles that we hope our customers will enjoy the most.  We have agreements in place with Ritual, George Howell, Roseline, Gimme! Coffee,  and Phil & Sebastian. I know the trend towards multi-roaster shops can be tough for roasters, but it’s pretty amazing for shops and consumers. We get to essentially cherry pick the best coffee from the best roasters. We won’t be going crazy by trying to offer a dizzying amount of options; we’ll look to choose the best 3 from amongst what we cup each week.

I am a huge Danny Meyer fan, he is without a doubt my personal hero. He once wrote, ‘we serve at the pleasure of our guests not our egos’, and that has always stuck with me. I am just a farm boy with a questionable palate; far be it for me to tell someone what they should like. I have no problem what-so-ever with sugar, milk, or even soy (gasp) in coffee. Why would I judge someone for what they like and makes them happy? In saying that, we don’t exactly offer a ton of options, but if we have it in our store we will try to accommodate nearly any request.

No one will ever be judged when they come to us. Ever. I think diversity in the industry is great. Some shops are a little more exclusive and some are more inclusive. Diversity is a good thing.

Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up? 

We are doing all our coffee on an Alpha Dominche Steampunk and our espresso on a Modbar. I am guessing for at least a little while we will be one of the only shops in the country with both. We’ll also have a La Marzocco Linea available and a bunch of Aeropresses (at our first location we Aeropress exclusively). We will see how it goes, if nothing else it should be interesting! Luckily I am working along side two amazing people, Kaelyn Rockov and Jack Anbender, without them I would be utterly lost. They always say surround yourself with smarter people than yourself, and I certainly have.

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We will also offer a full juicing menu at our in-store juice bar. We started offering a limited selection of raw juices at our University and Washtenaw location, and it has proven to be hugely popular. With the generous allotment of square footage we were able to build a full juicing bar where you can pull up a seat and order from a wide range of juices, ranging from hard core green drinks to some more approachable ones. Juicing is a ton of work, its very labor intensive but its such a positive, healthy addition to go alongside our coffee program that we can’t imagine not offering it now. We have a lot of customers who now get both a coffee AND juice everyday. To me it’s the best of both worlds.

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You’ve got a date set for opening… when is that?

August 22nd. Normally I would never ever guess at an opening date, but the center is having a grand opening in which we are all obligated to make sure we are open for.

It will take awhile to hit our stride, with plenty of bumps a long the way. Our goal is become a world class shop but we have a lot of work to do before we get anywhere near that point. Luckily we take the long view of things and are dedicated to trying to improve a little bit each and everyday.

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Projects like this are a huge undertaking. Anyone you want to thank?

We want to thank our surly General Contractor, Dave Jarvis, and all the amazing trades that have worked on the project. Last but not least my wonderful business partner who without him none of this would be possible.

Glassbox will open August 22nd and is located at 3010 Washtenaw Avenue in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the new Arbor Hills Crossing. Follow Glassbox on Twitter @glassboxcoffee


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