Something’s brewing downtown


The Michigan Trust Building will get a sample taste of its newest ground floor tenant during ArtPrize, when Ferris Coffee and Nut Co. sets up a pop-up shop.

Last year, Ferris used its coffee truck to serve patrons throughout the annual arts competition, but now, with an offer from CWD Real Estate Investment, it has found a downtown home on the corner of Ottawa Avenue and Pearl Street.

The nearly century-old company just opened its first retail location, at 227 Winter Ave. NW, about a year ago, so there was indecision on whether to move ahead with a second location, said David VanTongeren, director of retail at Ferris.

“We went back and forth and we decided to hold off for a bit,” VanTongeren said. “CWD came back to us and said they’d hold off until 2016 but to use the space for ArtPrize.”

Ferris was drawn to the historic building, built in the 1890s, and its aesthetics will be shown off once the permanent location is set up. For ArtPrize, however, the company will focus on helping create a buzz about the area.

“It’ll be barebones — minimal seating, limited menu,” VanTongeren said. “We might partner with another business to fill the space and make it unique.

“We want to use the energy and activate that corner during ArtPrize.”

VanTongeren said the temporary shop won’t be a reflection of the future store, but it will help bring more recognition to the Grand Rapids coffee brand.

“Half a million people visit Grand Rapids during ArtPrize,” he said. “We can get some of those people interacting with the culinary side of coffee and making Grand Rapids renowned for that aspect.”

CWD was specifically looking for a coffee shop for the corner spot.

“We had a lot of folks approach us about this, that and the other thing,” said Sam Cummings, CWD’s managing partner. “It was 100 percent coffee the whole way. We really seek to continue reactivating store fronts with sustainable, vibrant uses.”

Cummings said CWD employees drink a lot of Ferris coffee and the company cultures meshed well, so the pairing was logical and provided the incentive for the companies to make it work long-term.

He also pointed to the Michigan House and Creative Many storefronts on the same corridor that also will create activity this fall on the downtown block. Electric Hero, a Michigan-focused sandwich shop, also is finishing its storefront, Cummings said.

“It’s really going to be a re-energized block this fall,” Cummings said.

After ArtPrize, when Michigan House moves on, Cummings said CWD will focus its energy on helping fill the rest of the storefronts around the Ferris-anchored corner.

“We’re going to build the co-tenancy — that’s something we’re focused on,” Cummings said, again emphasizing the need to activate the retail storefronts.

Following ArtPrize, Ferris will close up the temporary location and prepare for the full-scale shop to open in spring 2016. The atmosphere of the shop will build on the history of the building, VanTongeren said.

“Our intention is to implement a model that stays true to the heritage of the building while staying true to Ferris’ brand,” he said. “We’ll also implement things that Grand Rapids hasn’t really seen yet.”

The model will be significantly different from the west-side location on Winter Avenue, which was part of a renovation and designed with a larger footprint.

 “We don’t want every store we open to be the same, look the same, feel the same,” VanTongeren said. “It’s really important to reflect the neighborhood it’s in. The place we have on the west side is perfect, but it won’t work here. We need to cater to a more urban, professional environment.” 

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