Last week, after sharing the same building space on the corner of South Fourth Avenue and East Washington Street for almost two years, The Espresso Bar officially became a part of Literati bookstore.
Literati owners will now oversee the business and management for the downtown coffee spot, taking over for former owner Sandy Bledsoe.
Literati owners Mike and Hilary Gustafson started their bookstore in March 2013, and it has since turned into one of Ann Arbor’s most well-known. They said they have always emphasized being a welcoming and inclusive community and, taking ownership of the Espresso Bar will further that goal.
“I've loved The Espresso Bar since before they moved into our building,” Mike Gustafson said. “What Sandy created is truly special. It gives me a sense of community. I see friends there. I see all sorts of people come up and have a conversation. We have always wanted to have a bookstore that generates dialogue and would be a community space, and I think the fusion of these two businesses does just that.”
Despite the change in ownership, coffee shop employees said they're confident the quality of the Espresso Bar, which was voted best coffee shop in Washtenaw County in 2015, will be consistent. Jess Harmon, the new manager of The Espresso Bar, has worked in the coffee business for more than six years, said she believes the shop sets the standard for customer service in the area. She added that the transition will help align the businesses.
“It’s difficult when there’s two M.O.s operating in the same place, but when it’s one cohesive unit, we can all sort of be achieving the same goals,” Harmon said.
Harmon also noted that the day to day operations have not changed much so far and will be kept fairly similar for a while, though changes may come down the road.
“You know, a lot of things are going to stay the same, especially our staff — we’re not losing anyone,” Harmon said. “We may do some remodeling of things. We might get some varied seating and stuff like that. Hopefully find a way to get people different nooks and crannies to sit in.”
However, for the future, the Gustafsons have plans to better streamline the store and the coffee shop in order to enhance the experience of shoppers and readers alike.
“There are little things we can do to make the space more cohesive,” Mike Gustafson said. “For instance, making special menus for events and readings, or, hopefully one day, smoothing our system so gift cards can work at both the bookshop and the coffee shop.”
Despite the change, students, like LSA sophomore Amber Mitchell, said they were supportive of the merge and the environment Literati creates for its customers.
“My favorite thing about Literati and The Espresso Bar, besides the world's best vanilla latte and an outstanding collection of literature, is the community atmosphere,” Mitchell said. “Although the businesses have operated separately up until this point, the location as a whole feels full of individuals who are friendly and passionate about what they do — whether that be academically, in the literary field or as a staff member of The Espresso Bar itself.”