For Roasters & Retailers

Nostalgia and toast part of Zingerman`s Coffee Co. renovations in Ann Arbor

Drawing customers off the beaten path for seven years, Zingerman`s Coffee Company is celebrating the grand reopening of its renovated retail location, which now features more seating and a renewed emphasis on the art of making a cup of coffee.

The wholesale center and retail spot at 3723 Plaza Dr. in Ann Arbor isn`t your typical cafe, said Steve Mangigian, managing partner of Zingerman`s Coffee Co. It started operations in the company`s mail order delivery warehouse, with the simple intention of roasting coffee and packaging it for wholesale customers.

Operations soon became cramped as the business grew and prompted a move into its own separate space along Plaza Drive, tucked among other Zingerman`s businesses and industrial buildings.

It wasn`t the typical location for a cafe, which usually takes into account the amount of foot traffic and the visibility of a location, Mangigian said.

“We`ve defied that entire myth,” he said.

People continue to travel to Ann Arbor`s south side for Zingerman`s baristas and to check out the Big Brew Board, a grid of combinations of methods and beans that ensure a customized coffee experience.

The continued growth has prompted a complete renovation of front-of-house operations, with construction taking place from July to early December last year.

Michelle Abbey, marketing manager at Zingerman`s Coffee Co., said they have appreciated the flexibility shown by regulars and visitors during renovations.

Walking in, the coffee counter and production area is now shifted to the right of the entrance, and a new cupping lab area serves as a laboratory for Zingerman`s baristas to test new creations and find the perfect balance of aroma and taste while roasting coffee beans.

Additional seating has doubled the number of people who can enjoy the smells coming from behind the front counter and the cupping lab, where classes are also held for those interested in learning the process from the experts.

There`s also a new smell lingering in the air. A newly-added toast bar adds to a selection of pastries, Abbey said, “for something warm we make in-house.”

Try the Bulgarian Toast: a combination of sesame semolina bread covered in cream cheese and a Bulgarian spread called lutenita, which includes roasted peppers, roasted eggplant and tomatoes.

“We wanted to serve something that honored our fellow Zingerman`s Community of Businesses,” Abbey said about the toast bar, which is available all day.

Customers who love a certain toast can then shop the row of businesses out on Plaza Drive, like the Bakehouse and the Creamery, and make their own version at home.

Most operations were not impacted during the renovations, except for hand-brewed requests, Abbey added.

It didn`t stop coffee lovers from stopping in with laptops or books to escape the house or office, and feedback since renovations has been positive.

“We were really happy to remain open,” Abbey said. “It is essential for a cafe for people to kick back and relax. Before, we were running into the issue of not having enough seats. Now, we have space to welcome in people. It really opened up the floor plan.”

A grand re-opening event is planned for Febrruary 24 and 25 with toast samples, a raffle to win a coffee gift set and a special release of the rare coffee known as Panama Geisha.

“We had a chance to try it yesterday,” Mangigian said, describing the roast as one of the silkiest he has had. “It tastes amazing.”

Abbey said there will also be a special coffee and new toast recipe, available only during the grand re-opening weekend event. The Coffee Co. is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Mangigian said he`s excited to try out the new roaster machine customized for Zingerman`s Coffee Co., which took a year and a half to build.

Wholesale remains a core part of the business, Mangigian said, but renovating the retail side was important because it`s where the heart of the business is.

He described the coffee bar as a warm and welcoming place to educate customers about the beverage they are drinking using methods like chemex and pour-overs.

It is one of the few places he is aware of that offers eight brewing methods and up to 14 types of coffee beans to personalize the experience for everyone from the amateur to the connoisseur.

“I do not start any of my days without espresso,” Mangigian said. “I love the ritual of it.”

Zingerman`s Coffee Co. is about helping others find their perfect cup in a comfortable setting, he said.

“I want it to be innovative. I want it to be nostalgic,” Mangigian said. “It`s about your adventure.”



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