Foster Coffee Brings Warm Brews,Welcoming Hues to Albert Avenue

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Saturday, September 21, 2019, 8:00 am
Sarah Spohn

Photos by Raymond Holt.

East Lansing’s coffee shop scene is growing by the minute, with Foster Coffee’s new location opening at the Center City development downtown.

The 1,938-square-foot space includes a 568-square-foot mezzanine level, with study spaces and a community table where customers can enjoy one of their espressos, craft coffees, pour overs, drips, local baked goods, or premium teas.

Co-owner Nicholas Pidek said Foster’s newest location became a reality thanks to the relationships he and his business partner, Jonathan Moore, have made within the coffee community.

Foster Coffee originated in Owosso, starting as a pop-up caterer in 2014, then expanded to the nearby farmers' markets. In 2015, Pidek and Moore financed the coffee shop on their own credit cards, after they were rejected from banks for financing. Soon after, their first Owosso brick and mortar location opened.

Two years later, they expanded to downtown Flint. Two years later, they have brought the brand to East Lansing.

Pidek said the area’s reception of the new business has been positive.

“The community here has been so great, we’ve been building relationships since last year,” he said. “Obviously, getting into a space in the Center City Project is a long process, but everybody we ran into at the City level and the business owners have been really great.”

Pidek and the Foster team have close relationships with Nick Berry of Blue Owl (across the street), and Cara Nader of Strange Matter (down the street on Michigan Avenue). The new location is 30 minutes from their home base in Owosso.

“As far as the coffee community goes, we’re all trying to do the same thing which is to compete in the coffee market, in general,” Pidek said. “There is just a general, ‘hey we’re in this together’ – if we can elevate the coffee community, and the business community here – then that’s great. I think all of us kind of feels like we’re up against Starbucks and the chains.”

For Pidek, if one person buys a locally brewed coffee, it’s a win for everyone. The company also prides itself on buying Michigan-made products.

“Eighty percent of our entire expenses are spent in the state of Michigan, and with each store, we are shooting for that same target of seventy [70] to eighty [80] percent of that store’s expenses spent locally.”

Their t-shirts are printed in Owosso at Hankerd Sportswear, kombucha from Reputation Beverage Co. in Lansing, donuts from Groovy Donuts in East Lansing, and Stone Circle Bakehouse breads from Holt.

“For us, we’re trying to be one hundred [100] percent free of Amazon,” Pidek said. “If it makes sense to buy it locally, then we try to do that as much as possible. We view it as like a rising tide that really raises all ships. East Lansing, Owosso, and Flint – they’re all competing for attention, dollars, visitors, retention of money and people.

“If we can come in and partner with other local businesses, to make that community more attractive to stay, or to come back to, then that’s a win for us.”

Although there are famous chain coffee shops a few blocks away from Foster, Pidek is happy to see the pendulum swing away from indoor shopping malls and drive-thru locations back to the downtown areas of local business. It’s a different experience – one he says is fostered through collaboration, rather than competition.

“We view it in that broader context,” he said. “We’re creating an overall experience with the City. That takes working together – that’s why we believe collaboration is so important. We’re not just in it for that one coffee transaction, and then they leave town. For us, it’s a win if they come and have that great experience, go to a museum, or stop by Beggars, or do something else within the community.”

A place for students to study, friends to meet

Despite its soft opening being only this past Tuesday, students have already labeled it a new study spot.

Gabby Bredy, 19, and McKenzie Sarver, 19, visited the shop on Wednesday afternoon.

“I really like the ambiance, it’s really open. The décor is very simple, but I like it,” Bredy said. “Earlier, there were more people in here, and there wasn’t a lot of vibrations or reverberations from people talking. The music kind of canceled it out,” she said of the new study space, close to her off-campus apartment.

McKenzie Sarver tried a vanilla iced latte from Foster.

“It’s a great hangout atmosphere as well, but quiet enough to get work done. The atmosphere and the simplicity of it is very cozy and welcoming,” she said.

But the warm, industrial modern space is not just for students, but also neighbors, and families.

“The big thing is just learning and listening further from the community what the needs are,” Pidek said. “We had some locals come in today, and just walk down from their house. It’s not just a place for college students, but it’s a place for families. Jon and I both have kids, so having a craft coffee shop where you feel welcome in, and you can change a poopy diaper in the bathroom in (because it actually has a baby changing station); those all sound like small things, but they go a long way to making people feel like ‘hey this is our coffee shop.’”

“We have a core vision of what fostering community means to us, but there is a different spin and flavor in every one of our shops,” Pidek said. “They all look differently, they feel a little bit different, but the vision is the same. Those things kind of grow and matriculate organically from the community.” © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info