Coffee shop fills Local First’s former space


Mallory Squibb and her father, Dennis Squibb, are seeking a CID license to sell wine at Squibb Coffee Bar early next year. Courtesy Rachel Liv

Coffee, wine and cheese are at the heart of many social gatherings. So, what better way to build a welcoming space than to combine the three?

So says Mallory Squibb, co-owner of Wealthy Street Business District’s newest addition, Squibb Coffee Bar.

The coffee shop, located in the former Local First office at 955 Wealthy St. SE, opened Nov. 30 with the basics — coffee, tea and pastries — and is in the process of acquiring a Corridor Improvement District license (CID), so it can sell wine. Squibb hopes the liquor license will be in place by the end of January or beginning of February, at which point she will close the shop for a week, add wine and cheese to its offerings and hire three more workers.

Squibb currently has a staff of five employees, not counting herself and her father, Dennis Squibb, who is her business partner, investor and co-owner.

The pair began the process of planning for the shop about two years ago. They envisioned their business would be located somewhere in the Cherry/Wealthy corridor, but finding an available space proved to be harder than they anticipated.

Finally, the current spot opened up after Local First moved to Fuller and Michigan. Bazzani Building Co., which is right next door at 959 Wealthy St. SE, owns the 1,200-square-foot space and did the renovation for the Squibbs.

“The first few weeks here have been amazing,” Mallory Squibb said. “It’s just so gratifying to make a beverage and have someone enjoy it after a couple years of planning this. It’s been incredible.

“Just being a family-owned business and every morning having my dad, my mother and family sitting at the bar all enjoying a cappuccino together before the morning rush starts is also something that’s really cool.”

Squibb admits she’s been a little star-struck when it comes to meeting some of her more well-known patrons.

“I get to meet all these fabulous people, like Tami (VandenBerg), who owns The Meanwhile, will come in and say, ‘Yeah, I own the Meanwhile,’ and I’ll be like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re a celebrity!’

“I’ve also had the owner of The Electric Cheetah (Cory DeMint) in here, and I love that place. I go there all the time.”

Squibb has been paying attention to who her customers are, and she said she gets a lot of regulars.

“I think we’re a good community neighborhood spot,” she said. “In my first seven days of business, I had the same people five out of seven days, and it was awesome.

“Then for the first time today, I was like, ‘What brought you in here?’ and they said, ‘Social media.’ Even now, I’m watching people take pictures of their coffee and post them. I owe a lot of my clientele to Instagram.”

Dennis Squibb added that customers, especially millennials and teens, post so many photos to Instagram and Snapchat that the place is “basically marketing itself.”

He said the mural of a giant squid on the wall, created by local artist Kelly Allen, doesn’t hurt.

“A lot of people, especially millennials, take a picture of the mural and comment on how it looks,” he said.

The coffee shop’s focus on neighborhood and community extends to its staff, most of which live within a one-mile radius of the building, Squibb said.

Besides employing local workers, Squibb also is focused on sourcing locally. While her roaster and coffee supplier is Populace Coffee in Bay City, the rest of her inventory comes from West Michigan.

“Our pastries are from Field & Fire Bakery and Mason James in the Downtown Market and Sweet Batches in the Downtown Market,” she said. “And Bloom Ferments (also in Grand Rapids) does our kombucha.”

Squibb said she looks forward to adding wine and cheese to the roster after a “long road” toward securing a liquor license, going through the whole process with the various neighborhood committees — East Hills Council of Neighbors, the Wealthy Street Business District, Baxter Neighborhood Association, then the city and the state.

She previously worked for Aperitivo, 435 Ionia Ave. SW, which offers a lot of wine and cheese pairings, and she hinted that prior connections she has made in the industry may join her team in the future.

“I have a couple people I want to work with who have a lot of cheese knowledge,” she said.

Dennis Squibb, who also is an executive with a software and services company out of Canada, called e-djuster, said he couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out for the coffee shop.

“It’s been awesome to work with my daughter, and to have a business like this has been a dream of mine for a long time,” he said. “It’s blown away my expectations.”

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