The Crafted Bean
The Willis, a mixed-use development near downtown Lansing, will soon be transformed into the second location for the Crafted Bean, a third wave coffee café in downtown DeWitt. The building was recently renovated by the Gillespie Group.
This week, DeWitt café owner Justin Hartig signed a lease to open a second location for his 6-month-old coffee house, the Crafted Bean, near downtown Lansing. It will be the latest addition to mid- Michigan’s blooming “third wave coffee” movement, which infuses a farm-to-table ethos into the espresso bar model.
“Without question, our number one focus is on quality,” Hartig said. “Having a high quality bean that’s been roasted to perfection and ground and brewed right before you drink it completely changes the coffee-drinking experience. It’s great to see how popular it’s becoming.”
Over the last few years, the third wave of coffee has flipped the script on what Lansing-area coffee lovers traditionally think of as grabbing a cup of joe. Now instead of seeing how fast they can get in and out of a coffee shop, third wave customers happily wait four minutes or longer for their barista to heat filtered water to a specific temperature before gently pouring it over freshly ground beans and into a cup. Strange Matter Coffee Co. in Lansing’s Eastside neighborhood, Bloom Coffee Roasters in Old Town, and the Blue Owl Coffee Co. in REO Town have all added their respective interpretations to the concept, but Hartig’s contribution is perhaps the most distinctive: coffee cocktails.
Hartig said that when he first got the idea for a coffee shop, it took a while for him to find a concept he liked.
“I went to hundreds of cafés around the country to get ideas, but I didn’t see anything like what I had in mind,” Hartig said.
“Coffee is a way of life for me, and I knew that there were so many opportunities out there to do something new with it. I’m a bit of a drugstore chemist, so I just started experimenting.”
Ingredients like freshly picked mint, lavender and imported vanilla were used to build a coffee cocktail menu. And when Hartig opened the Crafted Bean last
February at 116 N. Bridge St. in downtown DeWitt, the drinks were instant hits. The idea soon caught on at the other third wave shops around town, and a new trend was born. No more ordering double double skinny venti frappuccinos with soy milk and no whip; at the Crafted Bean, you order a Johnny & June, a locally roasted Columbian French-pressed coffee blended with Sleeping Bear Dunes raw honey, grass-fed butter and organic peanut butter.
“I didn’t know coffee could be this good,” Hartig said. “It really gets me thinking about what we can do next.”
Hartig, who says he has “entrepreneurial disease,” applied that adventurous spirit to food, and over the summer launched Press, a food truck in Traverse City. The menu has 10 types of specialty waffles, including the I Got Wasted Last Night, made with jalapenos, cheese and hash browns. The “avocado fries” — fresh-sliced avocado tossed with crushed tortilla chips — also became another popular favorite. Then, two weeks ago, he drove the truck down to DeWitt and incorporated it into the Crafted Bean’s patio.
“We had to build out the cooking area so we make more waffles faster, and that extra space is going to allow us to add burgers soon,” Hartig said. “I’m not a chef, but I’ve gotten lucky to have an incredible staff who takes my ideas and run with them. Their ideas and contributions have really made the Crafted Bean what it is.”
Hartig gave the Crafted Bean a wild, ‘50s rockabilly look, complete with a mural of Johnny Cash flipping the bird and a hip-shaking Elvis plastered on one wall. It suits the space, a former bank, but the new Crafted Bean location inside the Willis building, 800 E. Michigan Ave., will have a different look. Developer Pat Gillespie spent $1 million last year to renovate the space on the corner of Hosmer Street and Michigan Avenue, as well as the six Craftsman-style apartments above it. Hartig will spend the next two months customizing his space to fit the Crafted Bean’s personality.
“I like to embody outlaw spirits,” Hartig said. “I may go with a ‘90s theme, or do something in the ‘80s, when hip-hop was still underground. That sense of counterculture is something I’ve always liked. And it’s really been our niche. Everyone has a little rebel in them.”
The new store will have pastries, but no waffles or burgers for now; Hartig has to wait and see what kind of zoning issues he’ll face that close to downtown. And if he goes for late-night hours, he’ll have a builtin audience spilling over from Moriarty’s Pub next door. That location also puts him precisely halfway between Strange Matter on the east side and its second location, which opened last month downtown. Hartig said he’s gotten to know the other third wave owners, including Strange Matter’s owner Cara Nader, and he says no one seems to afraid of oversaturation.
“I met Cara at the Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle this year as a complete accident, and her knowledge blew me away,” Hartig said. “Part of the reason I picked this location was so that I wouldn’t be too close to her, but still take advantage of the Lansing traffic. The market craves it.”
Hartig will also spearhead the area’s first craft coffee tasting event, which he’s calling Caffeine. It’s set for Saturday, Sept. 23, in a park near his original location in downtown DeWitt. And of course, he’s invited the other third wave store owners to participate.
“It’s really going to be cool getting all these roasters and brewers together,” Hartig said. “I think this event is going to be great for all of us. We’re all a little different, but we’re still all focused on the craft. I cant wait to see what’s we can do with this energy.”
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