Burns Park loses-and gains-a micro-café
by Sally Mitani
From the May, 2017 issue
"He's been doing it all by himself ... He's been pulling long hours, and he's ready to dial it back ... He's proud of what he's done and feels like it could go to another level," are some of the plaudits Matt Bjurman piles on Alan Caldwell, owner of Real Baked Goods on Packard. Now Caldwell, Bjurman says, "wants to cut back on hours. He did it for three years and built a good solid business." Which eventually leads Bjurman to the news that he's bought Real Baked Goods from Caldwell. He plans to reopen it sometime in May, renamed and with expanded hours.
Bjurman and Caldwell are friends who both embarked on handcrafted comestibles as a second career at almost exactly the same time: Bjurman, a former special ed teacher, roasting coffee at his Milan Coffee Works; and Caldwell, an ex-Ford white-collar worker, baking at Real Baked Goods.
No one is more aware of RBG's assets and liabilities than Bjurman, who provided it with coffee. Assets: RBG's products were deliciously artisanal; Caldwell was always smiling and affable; and the shop, a tiny triangular endcap of the pleasantly eclectic commercial block that includes Arbor Vacuum and the Zen Buddhist temple, has a distinct neighborhood feel. Liabilities: there was almost no seating, and no one seemed to know when RBG was open.
Bjurman lives in Ann Arbor, but when he was teaching in the Lincoln Consolidated district, teachers would meet for beer at Milan's Original Gravity Brewing Company. He realized that "people would pay a little more for higher quality"--not just in Ann Arbor, but in small towns where the real estate was cheaper. He rented a spot next to the brewpub and made the transition from weekend garage roaster to cafe owner. But you can sell only so much caffeine in Milan, and, sensing that Caldwell was beginning to burn out, Bjurman saw a chance to test himself in the Ann Arbor market.
With a vivid
memory of trying to break into small food marts so he didn't have to stand outside all day at farmers' markets, he wants to make it easy for other beginning food artisans: "I want to showcase whatever anyone new has invented." Already on board is Fairytale Baked Goods, his scone supplier in Milan. And "I proposed to Biercamp that they make breakfast burritos"--Biercamp sells his bottled iced coffee in their shop.
In early April, Bjurman hadn't decided on the name of the new enterprise but was leaning toward Coffee Works or Burns Park Coffee Works. He bought Caldwell's equipment and cinnamon bun recipe, and the coffee will be from Bjurman's roastery in Milan. He emphasizes that nothing in his Milan business will change--the beans, which he sells both wholesale and retail, will continue to be roasted there, and his small attached cafe will continue as is (see Restaurants, p. 63, for a Quick Bite on his bourbon-infused coffee).
He promises to be open six days a week within a few months. He even plans to host some pop-up events in the evening--which will, of necessity, take place mostly on the sidewalk and mostly in warmer months.
Coffee Works, 1232 Packard, 657-9899. Initially Thurs.-Sat. 7 a.m-2 p.m. (eventually Mon.-Sat.). milancoffeeworks.com
[Originally published in May, 2017.]
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