DeWitt takes another step in its gradual evolution from bedroom community to bustling cultural hub with the opening of the Crafted Bean next week. It’s a new specialty café in the city’s downtown retail district built around the novel concept of non-alcoholic “coffee cocktails.” The made-to-order coffee drinks are brewed with small-batch roasted coffee beans and mixed with organic flavorings and ingredients, including butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows. The Crafted Bean will also serve as a performance venue, an art gallery and a social hub, but owner/operator Justin Hartig said he’s not working from an established business template.
“I’ve got entrepreneurial disease — my brain never stops working,” Hartig deadpanned. “People have been using grass-fed butter in coffee for a little while now, but I saw an opportunity to go someplace with it no one else had ever been. This is more than just trying to be different, though. I wanted to create a place that would draw people of all ages, whether they like coffee or not.”
And the ideas continued to percolate. The Crafted Bean will have a projector that will show ‘50s-era movies and music videos on one wall. There will be a “vinyl corner” where Hartig will set up his collection of “thousands” of old LPs next to a record player and allow customers to spin whatever they want. There will also be a performance stage, as well as a lounge area where patrons can do homework, hold meet-ups or just sit and relax or check out the murals under the café’s Edison lighting system. As far as Hartig knows, there’s no place quite like this anywhere.
“After I got the idea for (the Crafted Bean), I started going to coffee shops around the country,” Hartig said. “I went to hundreds of places, and I made a lot of new friends, but I didn’t see anything like what I had in mind. It took about a year of coming up with design ideas and about five months of construction, but now here we are, ready to open. I can’t wait to see what people think.”
This will be Hartig’s first venture into the coffee business. He’s a self-professed coffee snob who proudly calls java his “drug.” As the owner/lead strength and conditioning coach of Human Performance Institute, a personal training studio he started six years ago, Hartig said it was coffee that got him through the grueling, 18-hour days he often had to work.
“It become a way of life for me,” he said. “But as the business grew and I started attracting people from all over country, I kept hearing from clients who were (hanging out downtown) before and after training sessions how much this town needed a coffee shop. Then I saw this empty building last year, and I started thinking.”
That building, 116 N. Bridge St., is only a few dozen feet away from his gym. It was built in 1905 as a bank and still includes some of the original features, including a brick vault. That vault will be the site of the Crafted Bean’s merchandise store, which will sell coffee beans from local and national roasters. The café will rotate roasters each month, with the first one being Lucky Duck Coffee in Haslett. Customers will be able to choose a type of coffee and a preparation style — French press, AeroPress or pour-over — or just pick a selection from the cocktail menu. That menu will start off with six drinks, all with unique names like Bliss, Johnny & June and Smoking Gun, which uses fired French oak chips and organic Sleeping Bear Dunes honey.
“There’s actually a lot of science involved in getting these flavors to work out perfectly,” Hartig said. “You can’t get the smoky flavor of the oak chips to infuse into the coffee without that honey. I’m like a drugstore chemist.”
And it’s this combination of official and unofficial job titles — entrepreneur, personal trainer, barista, chemist — that led to the Crafted Bean’s name. Or at least its initials.
“Elvis Presley used to surround himself with the best people he could find,” Hartig said. “His motto was ‘taking care of business,’ and he came up with that TCB logo with a lightning bolt most people are familiar with. I’ve actually got that tattooed on my arm, and that’s my philosophy, too: To bring together the best ingredients and the best people the world has to offer. But the Crafted Bean is more than just taking care of business. Hopefully I’m creating a culture that will bring the kind of people to (downtown DeWitt) I want to be around.”
Earlier this week, north Lansing hotspot Golden Harvest announced via Facebook that it will be closed on Mondays “until further notice.” The announcement comes a week after the following post was made on the bohemian diner’s wall:
“For 13 years, Zane Vicknair has been our chief slinger of hash. This week we bid him farewell as he moves on to sharpen his knives in other ventures. The staff will hold to the same excellence that you have instilled in us these many years. We'll make you proud, dad.”
Since 2004, Vicknair had been one of the business’ three co-owners, along with his wife, Vanessa Vicknair, and his mother-in-law, Marie Vicknair. When reached for comment, he confirmed that he is no longer part of Golden Harvest, but he declined to elaborate on what “other ventures” he may be moving on to and requested privacy for him and his family at this time. That sentiment was echoed by Vanessa Vicknair, who simply added, “The Harvest is not going anywhere.”
The restaurant also made the following “help wanted” post over the weekend in its signature cheeky style, presumably in a bid to reclaim Mondays:
“Hiring self-motivated, humble, dependable, experienced, fast kitchen staff who can take criticism, roll with the punches, understand a need for growth, and isn't offended by poop jokes.”
The Crafted Bean (opens Monday, Feb. 13)
116 N. Bridge St., DeWitt
6 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday; 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
1625 Turner St., Lansing
7 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; closed Monday
(517) 485-4663, facebook.com/goldenharvestrestaurant