After a successful three-year run In Lansing’s Eastside Neighborhood, Strange Matter Coffee Co. opened a second location in downtown Lansing last week . The new shop feaures a custombuilt espresso machine and a cutting-edge water filtration system.
For the last three years, Greater Lansing’s craft coffee scene has provided a bit of artisanal beverage counter-programming to the area’s booming craft beer scene. It all started with Strange Matter Coffee Co., which opened in Lansing’s Eastside Neighborhood in 2014, introducing many local java junkies to the concept of pour over and nitro coffee styles in a café setting. Iorio’s Gelato & Caffé kept the subject alive and buzzing in 2015, and Bloom Coffee Roasters brought the formula to Old Town the following year, solidifying craft coffee as a bona fide movement here in the capital city. The field blew up earlier this year with the opening of the Crafted Bean in DeWitt and, most recently, Blue Owl Coffee Co. in REO Town.
Then last week, things came full circle with the opening of Strange Matter Coffee Co.’s second location, which drops the creative “coffee cocktail” idea smack-dab in the middle of mid-Michigan’s largest daily, year-round source of foot traffic: downtown Lansing. But ask owner/operator Cara Nader why she made the leap to Washington Square, and she waxes philosophically about the art of being a barista, not cornering any particular market.
“My goal isn’t to make money,” Nader said. “My mission has always been about creating quality coffee and providing coffee education. I want people who don’t think they like coffee to realize that they might just like it if it’s made right. And I want people who already like coffee to be able to try different kinds that they don’t usually experience.”
The new 800 square foot location heralds her big move across the street into the east side, mixed-use development project, Venue at East Town, which is currently under construction and slated for completion sometime this fall. That new café will more than double her footprint, allowing her to launch a scratch bakery. If coffee goes good with doughnuts, ispo facto, craft coffee will be complemented by craft pastries.
“I’m really excited about that aspect, because I’ve wanted to (offer in-house bakery items) for a while now,” Nader said. “We have Zingerman’s (pastries) now, but it will be so much better when it’s coming from our own kitchen.”
Nader said business got off to a solid start after the grand opening last Friday in the space on the corner of Washington and Kalamazoo Street. It was formerly occupied by Crafty Palate, which closed in 2016 after about a year and a half; nothing is set for what will happen to the remaining 1,800 square foot, adjacent space that comprised the rest of Crafty Palate’s dining room.
“I always envisioned a place downtown,” Nader said. “I wanted to be more walkable and more communityoriented. I was just waiting for the right space to open up.”
But the new incarnation of Strange Matter tweaks the eastside model, bringing batch (ready-made) coffee to the mix. Now if you’re in a rush, you don’t have to actually wait five minutes for the water to reach the correct temperature and the coffee grounds to properly bloom before serving.
“One thing I’ve noticed (at the eastside location) is that people don’t mind waiting a little longer if it means they’re getting a quality coffee,” Nader said. “I’ve been told things move a little faster downtown, so we have to adapt.”
That flexibility helped her through a big kink in the plans last week when her espresso machine pump broke the day before opening. Her solution: borrowing a machine from Foster Coffee Company in Owosso.
“We also had to borrow coffee filters from Blue Owl because I spaced on ordering them,” she said. “So that was fun.”
The downtown store features an advanced reverse-osmosis water filtration system that allows Nader to precisely control the makeup of the water used to make the coffee; that same water will also be used in the bakery, to keep harmony between the pastries and the coffee. But first things first: rebuilding her espresso machine.
“I tend to prefer older machines that I can tinker with,” she said. “(That tinkering) gives you more control of your product, but it’s also just more fun that way.”
Sweet designs Last week, Mason-based fashion entrepreneur Corey Thackery brought her 2-year-old, online retail clothing store into the real world with the opening of Sweetlees Boutique in downtown Mason. The store caters to women’s styles, and features blouses, shirts, leggings, and accessories.
“I started (working) out of my house with two styles of sweaters, (and) now I have enough inventory for a 1,700 square foot warehouse,” Thackery said. “I ship orders out daily to people across the country, including Alaska. It’s pretty enjoyable watching as it grows.”
For now, the store is only available by appointment, but she plans to host monthly pop-up shops. She curates the lines from wholesalers, and has started traveling to national clothing shows to meet with manufacturers. Thackery said her customers are “mostly moms in their 30s and 40s,” although she’s sold clothing to teenagers and septuagenarians alike. Sweetlees has clothing in sizes ranging from small, to triple-extra large. Thackery said she was inspired to start a specialty clothing store after the birth of her second child.
“I had such a hard time finding clothes that fit my new body shape and were cute and stylish,” she said. “So I decided to put the solution in my own hands and open my own shop. I want women of all sizes to feel beautiful and comfortable.”
Strange Matter Coffee Co. 337 S. Washington Square, Lansing 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday strangemattercoffee.com
Sweetlees Boutique 624 S. Cedar St, Suite 4, Mason Hours by appointment only email@example.com, sweetleesboutique.com