Blue Owl Coffee Announces East Lansing Location
Above: Two-thirds of the Blue Owl Coffee owners, Adam Klein and Nick Berry, stand in their East Lansing space. Photo: Sarah Spohn.
For owners Nick Berry, Rich Whitman, and Adam Klein, the idea for Blue Owl coffee shop was always a grand one. What started out as a humble coffee cart in downtown Lansing quickly turned into a brick-and-mortar shop in REO Town, opening April 2017.
This December, they’re opening a new location (their second) next to Fieldhouse (Ann St), and Hopcat (Grove St) in downtown East Lansing.
Standing in their newly-acquired space, formerly Peppino’s Sports Grille/Fieldhouse, Berry and Klein can’t help but get excited. This time around will require much less renovation than their first location, and the new location in a busy college town offers new challenges.
Berry fell in love with coffee early on, and the warm environment of his favorite coffee shop, Cappuccino Café on Lake Lansing Road.
“I was a pretty big introvert in high school, and still am,” Berry said, “but that was an easy place to make friends. People just hung out and chatted about what they were working on, and doing with their lives – it was just an easy conversation that started with ‘what are you drinking?’
That casual, welcoming atmosphere is exactly what the Blue Owl crew hopes to bring to thousands of MSU freshmen who are now on their own, away from their families back home.
“That’s something I wanted to make sure, especially in an environment like East Lansing,” Berry said, “we want to create a space that is where you start your first original idea – go ahead and write that book, start that band, paint a picture – just start telling your story.”
The business owners had searched across the state, and toured places in Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, Jackson, and been especially impressed by Detroit properties. When East Lansing was considered, Berry was initially against the idea.
“I fought it for a long time actually, because I used to work at the Starbucks here,” Berry said. He couldn’t picture what their brand would do in that space. “All I saw was the fast food version of ‘turn-and-burn’ coffees.”
With the success of the coffee bike in East Lansing, the town began to grow on Berry.
“This is a really good chance for us to set up a space that gives a reason to actually come and hang out, and build something that isn’t so packaged,” Berry said.
The average customer varies at Blue Owl’s original location in REO Town, but many regulars are grad students hoping to escape the younger college crowds. Klein hopes to provide that same sense of retreat, but this time in the thick of downtown East Lansing.
As for the space, they’re hoping to remove every reminder of the sports bar that previously occupied the space, and totally transform the shop. The 3,000-square-foot-space will feature roll-up garage doors in the front, to allow guests from outdoor events, fairs, and festivals to wander in.
The location will also have its own cold prep kitchen to prepare salads and sandwiches in-house for both the East Lansing and Lansing locations. A full-band stage will be installed, with an art wall as the backdrop for open mic nights, and live performances. There are plans for a glass wall in the back, with doors leading to a hallway for the tenants in the upstairs apartments. Another set of doors will lead to the conference room, which customers and guests can rent out.
The expansion is still somewhat nerve-wracking for the trio, considering the difference in rent alone, which is triple what they pay for their REO Town spot.
“You’re going to see some similar ideas, but it’s definitely not the same (as the REO Town location),” Berry said. “It’s meant to be a space for that community. We’re not a franchise. This is East Lansing’s Blue Owl.”
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