A mid-Michigan coffee start-up is putting down roots in East Lansing — and it's become the first small business to take up residence in the Center City development project.
Foster Coffee was founded in Owosso in 2014 by two bandmates and their friend after they watched their peers flee Michigan for job opportunities in other states.
“We really wanted to help change the narrative of just leaving to go find opportunity," co-founder Jonathan Moore said. "(We're) just putting our heels and feet down and saying, ‘Hey, let’s work with other people to create opportunity where we’re at.'”
Now, four years later, they’re opening up a third location in one of East Lansing's most ambitious development projects. Foster Coffee is the first small business that's announced it will operate in the space, and the team behind it is excited to partner with Center City developer Harbor Bay.
“Our other two locations have emphasized older buildings that have been refurbished, so this will be a new development for us,” Moore said. “I think with Harbor Bay and their emphasis on wanting to focus on the community — I haven’t really come across many developers that are that intentional about who they put in their locations — that was a big thing for us.”
Mark Bell, president and CEO of Harbor Bay, said in a press release he “knew from the onset that Foster Coffee would provide the experience and coffee that our tenants and community members would enjoy.”
“We knew we had to find the right partner to greet our residents each morning,” Bell said.
Co-founder Nick Pidek said the shop will be up and running by summer 2019, as the first tenants begin moving into the apartment building.
Coffee is a staple of college, work and retired life for many people, but with two coffee shops already on Grand River Avenue and a third on the way, Foster Coffee will have to carve out its own niche for customers.
Moore and Pidek said that niche will be centered around craft and community.
“I think there’s been a gap in East Lansing of the craft variety ... I think every shop, whether you get into chains or local and craft, all have a different kind of spin on things,” Pidek said. “When we opened in Flint there were already seven different coffee shops there, and we worked with them.”
Pidek said fostering a sense of community between customers and other businesses is the philosophy behind the whole company — and where it got its name. At its Flint and Owosso locations, Foster Coffee hosts trivia nights, children's story hours and works by local artists.
Center City is scheduled to finish up construction by the end of December to prepare for businesses and residents. As a mixed-use development, the complex will host more businesses than just Foster Coffee and Target. Updates on new ventures coming to the space will follow as they are announced.
“We’re just really excited to open our doors and come in where a lot of other people have been working really hard,” Moore said.
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