Coffee shops are often ground zero for creative projects, serving as the initial meeting place for two parties to get to know one another, establish some goals and then let the creative energies flow like a delicately roasted single-origin brew from a 1-gallon batch brewer.
So what better way for a creative agency to tap into its local creative community than to open a coffee shop of its own? In Kalamazoo, Michigan, the eight-year-old self-described “story company” Rhino Media has done just that, recently opening a quality-focused yet conversation-friendly multiroaster cafe called Civil House Coffee on the first floor of the building that houses its offices upstairs.
“Rhino has always been a hyper-relational, outgoing company,” Rhino Founder and CEO Kevin Romeo recently told Daily Coffee News. “But a byproduct of our growth as a creative team is remaining connected directly with our community, specifically the creative, entrepreneurial community. Civil House allows us to open our doors, so to speak, to everyone.”
To help execute the coffee shop plan, the Civil House owners — consisting of one part Rhino Media and one part Romeo himself — tapped into the coffee expertise of Rhino’s own Mackenzie (Mack) Chrisman, who has deep connections to the Kalamazoo coffee scene, as well as coffee experience gained from farther afield in places such as Revelator Coffee‘s Nashville outpost.
Inside a 100-year-old building that includes a tin ceiling, rebuffed wood floors and sturdy brick walls, the Civil House coffee bar is outfitted with a two-group Synesso MVP Hydra espresso machine supported by a Mahlkonig K30 Twin grinder, while a range of daily pourover offerings come by way of a five-cup Poursteady automatic pourover machine with Hario V60 pourover cones and a Maholkonig EK43. Batch brew literally flows from a 1-gallon Curtis G4.
Through these tools and a straightforward menu of hot and cold coffee drinks, the range of offerings becomes expansive via the shop’s rotating multiroaster program, which currently features roasted coffees from the likes of Verve Coffee Roasters (Santa Cruz, California), Quills Coffee (Louisville, Kentucky), Madcap Coffee (Grand Rapids, Michigan) and Proud Mary (Australia/Oregon).
“As someone who is passionate about coffee, I find that it’s really easy to get burned out on the same offerings, regardless of how fantastic they may be,” Chrisman told Daily Coffee News of the decision to carry coffees from numerous roasters, adding, “especially when, in this day and age, there are so many different things available on the market.”
Chrisman said both the daily espresso menu and the daily pourover menu will each have at least one coffee that will be more approachable, while other espresso and pourover offerings will feature something more unique or exotic.
“Kalamazoo is growing and developing quickly, which means we have to be sensitive to the needs of a wide variety of people who have had a wide variety of experiences,” Chrisman said. “We try to make sure our menu reflects that.”
Chrisman described the coffee scene in Kalamazoo — where a huge flock of Western Michigan University students return each year not far from the increasingly revitalized downtown area — as “growing like crazy. He noted the opening of at least three new quality-forward shops over the past two years, and several more in the works.
“I never thought I would see a day where so many fantastic coffees could be found in our growing little city,” he said. “I think in the next few years we will see a few local small batch roasters starting up, drawing their inspiration from the experiences being had both locally and abroad.”
As for what sets Civil House apart from those newcomers, Chrisman said, “Our location is pretty great; we may think our space is gorgeous; we may put out a pretty solid cup of coffee; but what makes us strong is our community and our desire to serve them and do life alongside them.”
Civil House Coffee is now open at 344 N. Rose St. in Kalamazoo, Michigan.