Some exciting news out of Grand Rapids, Michigan this week, as our longtime friends & partners at Madcap Coffee have announced that they’ll be opening a brand new retail cafe in early 2016. This will be the second cafe in Grand Rapids for the roasting company, founded by Trevor Corlett and Ryan Knapp in 2008.
The space will be located at 1039 Fulton St. East, directly adjacent to the company’s all-new roastworks, which began operations in 2015. The building, originally built as an auto garage in the 1930s, also houses operations for Brewery Vivant, makers of French and Belgian style beer. Madcap’s popular original cafe is in a rapidly revitalizing district of downtown Grand Rapipds; their new space is in the Fulton Heights neighborhood, a mix of accessible residential and historic commercial real estate with plenty of residents commuting to work elsewhere in the Grand Rapids area. The space will be designed by longtime Madcap collaborators Seth Herman and Chuck Anderson, responsible for the brand’s industry-leading logo and packaging work.
To learn more about the space, slated to open in Spring 2016, we sat down digitally with Corlett and Knapp for a quick chat (between interview requests from local TV).
Hi Trevor and Ryan! Congrats on the new space. We are curious: with the cafe located next to the roastworks, will this be like a “roastery-cafe” in the traditional sense?
Ryan Knapp: It will definitely have its own identity. In looking for a space we wanted something people could glance in at, to walk in and see that something’s happening there, and that’s been at the heart of what we’re doing. When you’ve got production going on, it means pulling people into that story and getting them one step closer to our hand in the production, which is something we’ve always tried to do. But the cafe will run with its own coffee shop and identity—it’s got more to do with the neighborhood than it does necessarily to the roastworks.
Trevor Corlett: It’s going to be an interesting experience, which we’ve always hoped for. The roastery has these huge windows—people can actually see in from across the street with these huge access windows—and we’ve also huge windows into the front training area and the cupping room. The idea has always kind of been that the whole process is somewhat highly visible, to create a unique environment. So it’s not a “roaster in the cafe” type of thing; this is an intense, healthy-sized roasting company that has a lot of quality control in place, and you’re still able to have a cafe in the midst of that, and able to kind of see that all happening.
RK: With both these places, the concept of transparency is a big piece of it. The word gets thrown around a lot as a buzzword, but it’s always at the core of what we’re doing. We want our baristas to be connected to what we’re doing on the QC side of things, the roasters to be connected to the offices…you’ll literally be able to stand in the cafe, order an espresso, and in one direction see training or cupping happening, or look through and someone’s roasting coffee on the other side. Transparency is a big part of how we’re thinking about the design.
Tell us more about this 1930s auto garage. How much space will you have?
TC: The structure was transformed in the 80s at some point, and so it had all this weird stuff on it—our exterior wall is actually inside our cupping lab. The building was kind of an eyesore, this garage had been converted into an office of some sort, with an 80s stucco exterior. We removed all that stuff. The photo you’ll see in the press release is part of a vision; we’ll have a mural up on the wall too.
RK: Dave Battjes, our roastery manager, is a great artist and specializes in lettering, and so we’re working with him on some messaging to put up there. The entire building is 10,000 square feet, and right now 5000 of that is Brewery Vivant next door. We currently have a little over 3.5k square feet, and about 2/3rds of that is the roastery, and the other third is office & training space. This new cafe will be just under 1,500 square feet.
Fulton Heights is pretty different from where your original cafe is located, right?
RK: Yeah, so I think that in Grand Rapids our downtown is like a lot of downtowns—there’s more business people, more nine to fivers, but you’re also seeing in our downtown location how much it’s changed over the years. There’s newer businesses going in, and business people living down there. But where we’re moving right now is the east side of downtown, which happens to be a five minute walk from my house. This is a really exciting area because you’ve got more of like a working class feel; it’s a strip where you’re seeing new and exciting businesses coming up slowly, but also some of the oldest businesses in Grand Rapids are within a block of us. We’re a block away from Schnitz Deli and Van’s Pastry Shoppe—both have been there for over 80 years along side other longstanding businesses, so it’s got a nice feel to it.
This neighborhood is certainly not developed the way that downtown is now. I guess downtown wasn’t when we moved in either…but yeah, we’re a block away from a huge farmer’s market, one of the biggest ones I’ve been to, and so we’re really looking to build a space that also connects to the feel of the neighborhood. we’ll still have that clean Madcap polished look. It’s a really bright space, but we’re looking to mimic some of the aspects of the neighborhood as well with some different tones. It’s the original feel of it, original floors…it should feel comfortable, low key, and fit what this neighborhood is like.
What kind of coffee equipment is planned for the new space?
TC: So we’ll have a Linea PB (espresso machine) in there. We’ll be using Mahlkonig grinders, a combo of a K30 Air and a Peak with that PB, plus an EK43 for filter coffee. We aren’t going to really doing pour overs; we’ll be doing small batch brew on a Curtis Seraphim brewer, small batches, a couple liters at a time, up to half gallons. We’re planning on some other elements…but overall the bar will be more casual. So we’re playing into that by using some Modbar elements; not a whole espresso set-up, but we’ll use a steam wand unit from Modbar to go in conjunction with the espresso machine, to increase work flow.
With a three group espresso machine, three groups on there, often times in a crazy busy shop you don’t need all three groups, but steamwands are the commodity, so that’s something I’ve been thinking about to add efficiency and take advantage of Modbar’s ability to break down barriers and expedite espresso shots. That way we’ve got someone in the customer’s zone who can be able to steam drinks and expedite in front of them.
There’s also some waffle stuff we’re excited about.
Waffles are great. But we’re curious, the news release for this mentions more “to-go” offerings—care to elaborate?
RK: Some of that is hinting towards us having batch brew and coffees ready to go. That’s not something we offered until just a couple of months ago in the shop downtown. So we’re really contrasting that, working with options to get people in and out a little quicker. But we’re also working a lot with tap handles, so for our cold coffee on nitro we want to offer a few different coffee options, including a sparkling cascara, and we’re working with a local kombucha company to get that on tap. Also we’re playing around with some different infusions and tea recipes on the taps, plus the waffles. The idea is about trying to be convenient for people on the way to work, offering an in and out experience, but also offering a place thats very bar focused where somebody can geek out for hours.
Are you working with a design firm on this space?
RK: We’re doing it in-house. Our team is Seth Herman and Chuck Anderson—they’re design guys. They offer a lot of consulting and design, and they did our logo work.
TC: You work with enough designers and architects, and it’s always such a disconnect with work flow and customer flow. We have such a good team; our design guys are super stoked to have this opportunity to help us in the bar design and cafe set-up, so we’re excited and it’s gonna be a good fit.