“I’m his right hand, and he’s my left,” Saeed Ebrahim says of his relationship with his father and business partner, Hisham Ebrahim. The pair, who launched 19 Drips Coffee & Tea three years ago on W. Liberty and Stadium, opened a second location in August in the former Songbird Café: West Side on Jackson Ave. (Jenny Song’s original Songbird in the Plymouth Road Mall remains open.) 

19 Drip’s expansion was mostly turnkey—equipment, furniture, and even manager Jaden Cato were inherited from the former Songbird Café: West Side. | Photo: J. Adrian Wylie

“Real estate is tough here, and you have to move fast if something opens up,” Saeed explains. Their “customer base was growing” at their spot next to Pilar’s Tamales and Hello Faz Pizza, but with a “tight parking” situation there, they were on the lookout—and a second, bigger space for a café fit their goals. Their opening on Jackson Ave. was mostly turnkey—equipment, furniture, and even a few longtime Songbird Café employees came with the move. 

“At this location, in this neighborhood, it feels like a family, and we want people to feel like we’re bringing a cup of coffee to their kitchen counter,” says Jaden Cato, who previously worked at the Songbird and now manages the Ebrahims’ Jackson Ave. shop. Another former Songbird employee now at 19 Drips, Kevin Stolle, who was an art major in college, is painting a mural for the Ebrahims: a rendering of the Sira Fortress in Aden, Yemen, the city where Saeed’s parents grew up. 

The Ebrahims are part of the “third-wave coffee movement,” which Saeed describes as “community-based, not commercial.” Using fair-trade Ethiopian beans, “everything is about weight, time, and temperature” to create coffee as “an art” (the name “19 Drips” comes from the average number of drips in their double shot of espresso). “We hope we can get people to start moving beyond lattes and flavor shots … hand-brewing is our specialty,” Saeed says.

The Sister Lakes neighborhood behind them, the three hotels across the street, and I-94 just an earshot away, bring in familiar faces as well as the occasional lost or tired tourist, he says. “It’s a really interesting mix of people.” 

Honeycomb bread and sabaya (a layered sweet bread) are made fresh daily at the Liberty St. location, and other baked goods are delivered from the northside Songbird. The breakfast menu (available all day) includes sandwiches, wraps, and Belgian waffles—as well as Yemeni specialties, including shaksuka (scrambled eggs with toasted bread), murtabbaq (flatbread stuffed with egg, green onion, and spinach), and ful (breakfast bean dip with a side of bread). Lunch offerings include sandwiches, tabouli and yogurt salads, and lentil soup. 

Saeed says he’ll continue to run both locations with his father while taking classes part-time at EMU to complete his finance degree. Thankfully he always has coffee within arm’s reach. He says he drinks about four cups a day. 

19 Drips, 2891 Jackson Ave., (734) 436–8412. Daily 8 a.m.–5 p.m. 19dripscoffee.com


After six years on the corner of Platt and Ellsworth, and a “tough” eight-month renovation, Joe Osei-Bonsu reopened Kasoa Africa Market in July in the Jackson Centre strip mall. “It’s a bigger space with better parking,” he says, and after pandemic delays, the shelves are now stocked with African and Caribbean grocery items, including cooking staples from his childhood in Ghana.

“This is fufu flour, made from plantains,” Osei-Bonsu says, pointing to a small box, “but when I was a child I would grind it by hand in one of these,” as he points to a giant wooden mortar high atop a shelf. He’d eat the boiled fufu dough with homemade soup. Those soup ingredients are also for sale, including palm nut cream concentrate, groundnut paste, rice, oils, spices, and a large selection of frozen meats and fish. 

He says he’s always adding new stock to respond to customer requests and to keep the selection diverse. Shelves of canned and packaged goods include Kenyan teas and raw or roasted Ethiopian coffee beans; a small selection of colorful African fabrics and gift items; and toiletries, including tubs of top-selling shea butter, African black soap, and herbal supplements.

Osei-Bonsu came to New York City at age fourteen, sponsored by a family friend. He’d grown up in a large Ghanian family that owned several businesses—including a grocery store, sawmill, and cement block factory. He worked in all of them, but he says he was always intrigued by flashlights and electronics and became an electrical engineer. In 2008 he retired after forty years with General Motors. 

“My father was always asking me when I would open my own business,” he says. Osei-Bonsu initially ran a Chicago warehouse with his daughter that supplied African goods. He opened his first Ann Arbor business after he retired—a warehouse with a store on Trade Center Dr.—before moving in 2015 to the store on Platt and Ellsworth. 

Osei-Bonsu’s four adult children live in Michigan, and two of his daughters help out at the store. A Michigan State alum, he says his friends and relatives in the Lansing area ask when he’ll open a location there. For now, he says, running the Ann Arbor store is enough. 

Kasoa Africa Market, 3925 Jackson Rd. (Jackson Centre), (734) 323–6888. Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–8 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Facebook: Kasoa Africa Market


In Westgate, Nicola’s Books has been renamed Schuler Books and will expand into the former Old Siam restaurant next door. It was originally a Little Professor store, but Nicola Rooney purchased it in 1995 and changed the name.

When Rooney retired in 2014, she sold the store to Schuler Books, an independently owned bookstore chain that was launched in 1982 in Grand Rapids. 

Schuler’s owners, U-M grads Bill and Cecile Fehsenfeld, met while working as booksellers at Ulrich’s in Ann Arbor. They kept her name during the transition because the “Nicola’s brand was well loved,” says Schuler’s marketing coordinator Alana Haley. But with the Ann Arbor expansion and the company’s addition of a fourth store in West Bloomfield set for early 2023 (Schuler also has stores in the Lansing area and Grand Rapids), she said the time was right to change the name.

It will be a “big, beautiful new space,” Haley says of the expansion, dedicated to children’s and young adult books and merchandise—and will include new restrooms. The store’s current children’s area will become a used book section with “like-new” selections available in all genres, Haley says. They’re “not old, dusty, or out-of-date—our used books are very tightly curated and highly selective,” she says. In other Schuler stores, “the used section is the only area some of our customers shop.” 

The original store remains open while the expansion continues next door. Says Haley, “we have our fingers crossed that we can make it happen before the holidays.”

Schuler Books, 2509 Jackson Ave. (Westgate), (734) 662–0600. Mon.–Sat. 9 a.m.–8 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–7 p.m. schulerbooks.com


CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice—with more than 4,500 stores worldwide—opened its second location in Ann Arbor (the first is on Plymouth Rd.) in Westgate in July. The company website promotes its “authentic bubble tea straight from Taiwan” and features milk and fruit teas, smoothies, and slushies. A bright blue life-size statue of the CoCo mascot poses near the front entrance for customer selfies. 

CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice, 2535 Jackson Ave. (Westgate), (734) 492–3956. Daily noon–7:30 p.m. cocoteaannarbor.com.