Entrepreneurs

Factory Coffee’s downtown café to be more than a new location

The Kalamazoo roastery and coffee shop's third location, which opens July 21, adds a full menu, adult beverages, and later nights.

When the pandemic hit, Factory Coffee owners Dan and Emmy Kastner turned their Frank Street coffee shop into a schoolroom for their three children, and they used their newly installed roaster to pay the bills.

They had become accustomed to unconventional tenants since they opened the self-described “scrappy,” do-it-yourself-designed café in Kalamazoo’s Northside neighborhood in 2018, with a local ceramics company in the basement and a youth literacy non-profit on the second floor.

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As the first tenant on the corner in the new apartment building at Rose and Lovell streets, however, it has been an opportunity to implement ideas they hadn’t been able to at the original shop or at their second location inside the People’s Food Co-op a few blocks east on Harrison Street.

“In this new space, we wanted it to be complimentary, but we wanted it to be elevated,” says Emmy. “It feels like a hybrid of a cool restaurant you want to eat out at, but it’s still a café and it’s still casual in that way.”

  • tables in the seating area of Factory Coffee
  • tables and a bar inside Factory Coffee's downtown Kalamazoo location

When it opens July 21, Factory Coffee’s next location, a block from the Kalamazoo Public Library and Bronson Park, will bring a new full-service coffee shop/restaurant/bar all under one roof to downtown’s live-work-play scene. Open seven days a week from 7am to 11pm, it will offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus (though Sunday will be just brunch along with a pastry case and pre-made options).

The cocktail bar will also serve wine and a selection of bottled and canned beer, along with taps pouring one beer, their house cold brew, and other non-alcoholic drinks.

Chef Courtney Dodgers, formerly pastry chef at Roca and head chef at Presidential Brewing, will run the kitchen and, with Emmy, has developed signature items such as a coffee-crusted beef sandwich, vegan chai tea cake, and blueberry basil jam.

With help from several Los Angeles-based bagel shops, “the bagels are gonna be the big draw in the morning,” says Dan.

There will be no servers or hosts, and patrons will order from their table using a QR code or at the counter, the food delivered and dishes cleared all the same.

In addition to the made-to-order menu for the dine-in customer, a cooler with pre-made items like vegetable and pasta salads will cater to workers such as those coming from the nearby hospital, library, and Kalamazoo City Hall.

Emmy and Dan, both Western Michigan University alumni, have a history of popular creativity in Kalamazoo. Emmy is co-founder of Read and Write Kalamazoo and a children’s book author and illustrator. Dan is owner of local moped shop 1977 Mopeds and co-founder of the now nationwide enthusiasts group the Moped Army.

The owners of the 400 Rose apartment building, built on the former location of the city’s police headquarters, contacted the Kastners after they polled tenants and discovered that most wanted a food and coffee place to fill the vacant retail space on the first floor.

“When they approached us, we were very deep in the pandemic, so any moves felt super scary,” says Dan. “So having a built-in clientele meant that we would at least have those folks coming and grabbing coffee.”

In creating the new location’s vibe, the couple have been inspired by Dan’s previous coffee shops, Rocket Star Café in Kalamazoo that served the Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College campuses, and Café Ciao in San Francisco, as well as by friends’ coffee shops, European cafés, and restaurants across the state.

“We’re cherry picking the little details from all these places that we love and have experienced,” Dan says.

Not everything in the new Factory Coffee space is reinvented. The ceramic mugs and plates will still be made locally by Grayling Ceramics, Emmy will paint bathroom murals, and their friends’ art will be on display.

While Emmy and Dan may be new to non-thrifted furniture, they’ve created a crisp coffee shop feel over the last few months out of what Dan says was a “rough industrial shell” of concrete beams and partially finished drywall. The space has high ceilings and is bright, but for the cohesive dark wood tables and chairs manufactured in Grand Rapids and the cabinets and window bar seating made by local woodworker and designer Rob Chamberlin.

For the aesthetics, the Kastners turned to KLH, a Kalamazoo design company.

“They did a study of the neighborhood, the design team did, so that the interior sort of compliments what’s happening outside,” says Emmy.

Dan says they want each of their locations to retain their respective neighborhood coffee shop feel. It’s an especially important aspect this time around – the Kastners say their kids are excited to bike to the shop from their home a few blocks away, and their oldest can’t wait to work there too.

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