Located on Walbridge street in Kalamazoo’s riverside district, a rather inconspicuous building at first sight sits. The grey brick, and old windows belding into the scene around hide the shop wellt. However, the rather giant arrow sign reading coffee attached above the front door tends to give away this shops cozy hiding spot.
Black Owl Cafe is the storefront for the Kalamazoo Coffee Company. With the typical order-at-the-bar service of cafes they are open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. they serve a wide variety of specialty in-house roasted beans and locally sourced teas. On weekends from 9am to 2pm, they serve a meticulously curated breakfast menu and a large slice of pizza. Pizza is a relatively new addition to the menu.
Even though the cafe is only about five years old, the building it calls home is much older. Constructed in 1926 as a carriage-part factory, it houses one of southwest Michigan’s oldest elevators.
Customers stroll in to find a large piece of varnished maple to act as the shop’s main countertop. This partnered with a wall full of paned glass windows– some of which have been fogged due to age— foster a gentle golden glow that illuminates the shop.This eclectic combination of provides for an aesthetic that is a strong mix of both old time cabin and steampunk train station.
Parchment High School student, Kaylyn Bartholemew, is a regular at Black Owl.
“I like it’s because it’s a really quiet place to do my work,” Bartholemew said. “The lighting in here is dim, so I can focus on just being by myself and doing my work.
Jonathan Duchaine, a barista for Black Owl, said “ people who are in their teens to early twenties, like students, come and they are either studying for a really long time or here with their friends hanging out.”
Duchaine started his job at the cafe in June of 2016. He’d previously worked for the company roasting beans, but left the job on good terms. Duchaine said he returned because he wanted to barista and thought it was the best place to start.
He believes that Black Owl is one of the best coffee places in Kalamazoo but he is concerned about keeping that titled secured.
“The coffee scene is really popping off in this town, last year there were two shops that opened within two months, and there are supposed to two or three more shops opening by the end of this year,” Duchaine said.
Duchaine believes Black Owl can remain one of the best coffee places in Kalamazoo.
“The shop aesthetic brings it to another level, it’s a very casual place, and there’s always the little things we do-like latte art- that people enjoy to post on social media. “That right there is advertising for our business.”
Black Owl has an active instagram profile managed by the baristas who work there. The shop’s feed is a rather patchwork collection of seasonally themed drink and meal photos.
Black Owl has plans to expand their interior by adding an extension onto the dining room. With this expansion the cafe hopes to double its capacity. Black Owl currently does not have a timeline for the expansion other than that it will be occurring “soon.”
Along with the expansion the shop also plan to make changes to its breakfast menu.
All photos by Tova Carter