Foster Coffee, a brand rooted in its goal of “fostering community through coffee,” has made efforts to further its mission at its East Lansing location.
Foster was started in 2014 when business partners, Nicholas Pidek and Jonathan Moore, started brewing coffee out of a farmers market in Owosso, Michigan. Two years later, they opened their second location in downtown Flint and in 2019, they opened their East Lansing location.
Pidek and Moore began their careers touring the country playing music. Over time, they realized what they enjoyed most about the experience was the aspect of community that came with it.
“(Moore) was really passionate about coffee, he loved it. I was really passionate about business and marketing, and so we took that same love of community and applied it toward coffee,” Pidek said.
Pidek describes their approach to community as a three-pronged concept focused on business relationships, non-profits and civic entities. With this, he said the goal is to work together with complementary businesses to break down the barriers of competition.
With three vastly different Foster locations, Pidek said the goal is to create a unique atmosphere across cities. In East Lansing, he said one of the main things they wanted to do was to learn more about the residents that live there outside of campus.
“We’re still in the learning and listening phase,” Pidek said. “That really never leaves us at any of our locations because communities aren’t static, they’re constantly changing.”
Since opening in September, Foster has partnered with the Douglas J Aveda Institute, offering a study night for students where they could buy coffee and get a free massage to relax. During the week of Feb. 24, they will be partnering with Greek life at Michigan State University, sponsoring 14 different non-profits and constructing fundraisers with each of them during "Greek Week". Each house will represent a different non-profit and they will compete against one another to raise money for their organization. A percentage of Foster's sales will be given to the non-profit of the winning team, according to Pidek.
Outside their work with non-profits, Foster hopes to build community by highlighting the human element of exchange in the service industry.
“You never know whether someone’s name is ever said throughout a day, and that one concept, just psychologically … is that we can’t take for granted when we get someone’s name and we write it on their cup,” Pidek said. “ ... There is actually a dopamine release in a person’s brain when their name is recognized — that’s so much of what the human experience is, is just to be recognized.”
Though their brand is “fostering community through coffee,” Pidek said the idea is still an ongoing concept for them.
“We really try to listen, we try to learn and we try to grow and respond to the needs of the community as they happen,” Pidek said. “ ... The definition of fostering is stirring things up in that regard leaning into that rather than being the archetype. We’re not just creating these things and making them happen, a lot of times we’re working with what people are already doing and championing that.”