The Ann Arbor Coffee Roasting Co. began its soft opening on Tuesday, Oct. 19 at 324 State St. The new coffee shop fills the space formerly occupied by Espresso Royale, a longtime coffee favorite that closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The shop, co-founded by Manthri Srinath, Amy McEwen Goller and her son Spencer Goller were all former employees of Espresso Royale. Ann Arbor Coffee Roasting Co. is the second to take over a former Espresso Royale location with former employees of the coffeeshop — M-36 Coffee Roasters opened in the former South University Ave. location in August.
McEwen Goller and her husband, Marcus Goller, were the original founders of Espresso Royale, which opened on State St. in 1989.
“I think the most interesting thing about (the shop) is the fact that Manthri and Spencer and I are doing it together,” McEwen Goller said. “It’s just really sweet to have a project with Manthri again, and it’s incredibly nostalgic for me to have the store open again and to make it what we always wanted it to be, just a clean, beautiful, friendly, high quality place.”
According to Goller, Ann Arbor Coffee Roasting Co. has another location in Brighton, Mich., where they are currently roasting their coffee until the roaster for the Ann Arbor location is built. They expect the roaster to be completed by the first quarter of next year. They also make their chai at the Brighton location, while all of the food and pastries are baked in-house at the Ann Arbor location.
Goller explained that the Loring Smart Roast roaster the cafe will use is very sustainable and will be showcased to customers once it is assembled.
“The roaster) uses a lot of the newer technology in coffee roasting and recycles hot air so it’s also very eco friendly. It uses less energy,” Goller said. “So we’re planning on having the roaster be really a showpiece and something that’s upfront for everyone to get to see.”
Srinath described the coffee shop as “retro” in its sourcing and supply chain and said they cater to a wide array of dietary restrictions.
“That’s a fairly basic menu, with focus on a lot of plant milk,” Srinath said. “We do have really good baked goods, a lot of vegan and gluten-free options. Other than that, the actual core concept is pretty simple. We don’t do a lot of super sweet stuff but the things that we do, when I say retro, they kind of go back to a time in the coffee industry when the whole product line was much simpler.”
The building the shop is located in is considered a historic landmark by Ann Arbor’s Historic District Commission. The commission approved the roasting company’s renovation plans in July 2021, which, according to McEwen Goller, include some structural changes but “maintains the integrity of the historic building.”
“One of the other structural differences is some of the seating has been sacrificed to make way for the roaster,” Goller said.
While the Ann Arbor Coffee Roasting Co. initially planned to open their cafe in September, Goller said the October opening was caused by construction delays. Srinath said they are taking a flexible approach to opening during the pandemic.
“The business model is going to be flexible,” Srinath said. “If we cannot use the space or decide we don’t want to, we will have take out options or provide curbside service, or anything along those lines that the current climate demands at any given time. It’s very as you go at this point, it’s really pretty much impossible to prognosticate.”
Both McEwen Goller and Srinath said they had no difficulty hiring workers, even with the ongoing labor shortage caused by the pandemic. Srinath emphasized that their wages were “competitive.” According to the coffee shop’s Instagram page, it hired in new employees at $16 per hour.
LSA freshman Makena Crimaldi went to the shop soon after it opened and said she wished there was more seating available, but that she really enjoyed her coffee and pastries.
“It was really good — I got a cappuccino today and then I got a blueberry muffin this morning and both are fantastic,” Crimaldi said. “I love the location. I’m in West Quad (Residence Hall), so it’s a perfect place for me to come to study. For me back at home, I love to find cute coffee shops. This is perfect for me to come work whenever.”
LSA freshman Daniella Ludmir also visited the shop and said she was very happy with her experience at the store.
“I love it here,” Ludmir said. “I also love macadamia milk and it’s the only coffee shop that I’ve been to in Ann Arbor that has macadamia milk. It’s my second time here in three days and I discovered it three days ago.”
McEwen Goller emphasized how happy she was to be back in Ann Arbor. She said since moving to Ann Arbor in 1989, she had opened six stores in the city and several more across the country with her husband.
”We love it here … it’s absolutely wonderful to be back in the community again and to bring something really special,” McEwen said. “Also, both of my children have gone to U-M and my nephew’s gone to U-M. I’ve been picking kids up from the Hill for nine years now. It’s kind of fun to also revisit Ann Arbor as a mom of a college student.”
Daily Staff Reporter Jared Dougall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.