-The 1st Blog Entry In Our Grand Rapids, Michigan Emerging Concept Tour Series
No, for a change, we weren't on a project researching coffee. We weren't looking for inspiration or the next flavor trend. All we wanted was a cup of coffee and some wi-fi just like any other day on the road. We weren't trying, but they found us at Rowster Coffee in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
It was another example of an accidental discovery thanks to our friend Google Maps. Speak into the phone and say "Coffee Shop". Look for something not a chain and not too far away. Hit navigate and see what happens. That's how we got to Rowster Coffee.
The hardest part about getting to this mecca for roasted bean purists was entering through the back door and having to walk over and around burlap sacks of beans. No, these were not a few sacrificial sacks of product for show like the potatoes at Five Guys. They were what you were going to drink. It was the first sign that this place was far from your typical chain with the proverbial brand word wall mandated by the interior design team. No baked goods or retail shelves trying to sell you everything but exceptional coffee either.
The second sign was just as obvious as we quickly scanned the patrons. Hipsters, millennials, Mac toting creatives and foodies like us savoring and appreciating the artistry that was magically produced the same day (in some cases a few minutes ago) from the roaster just a few feet from them on the other side of the counter. Forget that half of the clientele clearly just woke up (it was 2:00 in the afternoon) and showering was obviously the second step of their daily rising routine; these were people in-the-know. These were people who could appreciate a $5.00 cup of coffee and were happily walking out with a pound of Costa Rican sun dried beans for the low, low price of $20.00.
Was the coffee exceptional? Yes. It should have been. Freshly roasted in that little hyper-over designed and engineered Italian looking machine with the round duct work coming out of it. Our coffee god took literally five minutes to make it as he did the pour-over-the-grounds-thing and sat there with a timer in his hand to make sure it steeped for the exact amount of time. Not kidding, he stood there next to the coffee staring at it with his timer in hand. His care was not altered by pesky customers wanting to place their order or waiting orders either. One cup at a time at Rowster. One perfect cup at a time.
Did we walk out with a pound of it? Yes. It was crazy good. We also watched local restaurants show up for their 5 pound orders one after the other too. This, of course, pulled the chain on the light bulbs in our heads connected to our restaurant concept revenue calculators. There were more streams of beans to count than the ones waking up our unshaven friends in flip flops surfing the internet and likely taking up space at the counter for some time to come that afternoon.
Is this the wave of the future to differentiate against the coffee chains? We have since found more of these purists beginning to brew some expansion past one or two locations. Is it a trend? Is it sustainable? Can it scale? We would love to know your caffeine induced thoughts.