Each summer our Build Outs series serves as a sort of trend watch—a way to track what’s happening across the coffee industry at large, and how that expresses itself in cafes. One such trend is exemplified by a new cafe in Michigan, opening later this month. All around the world, heritage coffee brands are becoming inspired by the new styles of coffee growing up around them, taking notice of what’s cool and current while staying true to their roots. It’s a tight rope to walk, and every expression is a little different.
From a corner suite in downtown Grand Rapids, this is the new cafe from Ferris Coffee, founded in 1924.
As told to Sprudge by James Fry of Ferris Coffee.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
We’re a 92-year-old roaster based on the west side of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Being in the industry for such a long time has given us a unique perspective, and ultimately we want to make great coffee approachable for everyone. We’re coffee geeks, and welcome anyone to come and enjoy coffee with us.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
Our second shop occupies a small, corner suite of the Michigan Trust Building in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. Completed in 1892, this historical building was once the tallest in Michigan and now houses various professional offices and a hip “neighborhood” incubator for startup ventures.
When we first visited the site there was a glaring lack of street access—not ideal for a busy corner. So we hit the archives and dug up an old photograph from 1902 depicting the location of a doorway that had been removed. Our landlord loved this and the city’s Historic Preservation Commission allowed us to return the space to its original state.
The final buildout is a refreshing take on classic American design: maple and dark walnut wood tones, quartz countertops, modern light fixtures, and a midnight blue bar covered in textured ceramic tile. We’ve preserved the historical nature of the building while transforming it into a relevant and functional space.
The ground-level shop will cater to a largely urban professional clientele. Given the smaller footprint, efficiency in all aspects—staffing, customer flow, workflow, and storage—has been central to the space’s design. Seating in the space will favor smaller, more intimate groups.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Our approach to coffee follows our approach to people: it’s the relationship that matters. Having been in this industry for 92 years, we’ve seen all kinds of good, bad, and ugly come and go. Trends change. Preferences change. Technologies change. While we embrace change, the fundamental responsibility of connecting people through a great beverage will always remain.
Like many professionals, we geek out over high-scoring, nuanced coffees, but we also enjoy a solid darker roast. This approach has led us to categorize our coffees with a tier system. Our Tier 1 coffees score between 80–83 points and provide a great cup of coffee at a more sustainable price point, while our Tier 3 coffees score 86-plus points and include many Cup of Excellence offerings.
We consider it a privilege to be in the coffee industry, and we have a great responsibility to serve a product that so many people have worked hard to produce. Because of this, our team works diligently to source, roast, brew, and serve our coffee in the best way possible for the customer. At the end of the day, it’s people that matter most.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
We’re excited to use the following equipment:
• Synesso MVP Hydra
• Mahlkönig Peak, K30 Twin, Guatemala
• Curtis Seraphim
• Curtis G4 ThermoPro brewer
• Ceramic by Acme and Haand
• Baratza Forte grinders
• Plenty of stuff from our friends at Espresso Parts
In addition to serving our coffee, we will also offer a limited beer and wine selection with some small plates and bar snacks.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
- Architect: Via Design
- General Contractor: Erhardt Construction
- Landlord: CWD
- Electrical: Feyen Zylstra
- Millwork: Händorn
- Plumbing: Godwin
- Mechanical: DHE
- Painting: Eckhoff and DeVries Painting & Wallcovering
- Flooring/Drywall/Finishes: Heyboer and Bolt Flooring Concepts
- Millwork Install: Erhardt Construction
What’s the address?
Photos courtesy of James Fry.