Coffee shop opens first retail location on south side


James Defrees started 517 Coffee Co. in his basement about seven years ago. He only had six hundred bucks to get from those humble beginnings, and he established himself as a wholesaler — selling his beans at multiple locations across Lansing.

It was always part of his plan to open a retail location. This year, that plan finally came to fruition. Defrees is satisfied with the new location. It’s close to the area where‘s he lived for almost two decades. There’s no other place he would rather have opened up shop. So far, the community seems happy to have a new coffee shop. 

“At least once a day, we have someone come in and tell us that they’re glad we’re here,” Defrees said. “That’s the response we were looking for.”

The local coffee brewer explained that one of his other primary goals with 517 Coffee Co. is to provide employment and training opportunities for the youth. By summertime, Defrees hopes to establish one or two internship programs. 

Making the transitions from coffee roaster to cafe owner and barista wasn’t too difficult for Defrees. For the past few years, he has practiced brewing and serving coffee at different farmers’ markets.

He doesn’t begin roasting coffee with the goal of making a light, medium or dark roast. Instead, he starts with a fresh, green coffee bean and then tries to get the best flavor possible out of it. 

“Typically, that is in the light-to-medium range. But the goal isn’t where the roast level is at,” Defrees said. “It’s to make sure that the coffee is best represented.”

517 Coffee Co. serves a combination of hot and cold coffee drinks, teas, hot chocolate and pastries. You can order online from the 517 website for in-store pickup, curbside or delivery. Delivery is free within the Lansing area. 

Defrees emphasized that the menu is constantly evolving. This is only its first iteration. But he’s always thinking of new items to add to the roster. “That’s just how we do things. We’re going to keep building,” he said.

517 Coffee Co.

6030 S. MLK Blvd, Lansing

Open Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

(517) 574-5573,


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