Sitting on the porch of their new house-turned-cafe, Rachel Pell and Keelan Ferraiuolo seem relieved. Electric Eye Cafe opened at N. Main and Depot in late July, after almost a year of the renovation and preparation required to turn a 1906 residence into a business. “It doesn’t even seem like it happened anymore,” says Ferraiuolo. “It seems like a dream now, with some nightmares in between.”
Instead of roasting its own coffee, the cafe features a monthly rotation of different independent roasters. August featured Ann Arbor’s Roos Roast, Ypsi’s Hyperion Coffee Co., and Plymouth’s Espresso Elevado. Baked goods come from Sweet Heather Anne across Main St., west-side stalwart Dimo’s, and the gluten-free Tasty Bakery. Future plans include live music and community fundraisers. The second floor remains unused for now, but Pell and Ferraiuolo excitedly discuss options for classes or workshops, “maybe yoga!”
The owners met through mutual friends five years ago, connecting because their daughters were close to the same age. They started to talk about wanting to open up a coffee shop, and opportunity knocked when they met the building’s leaseholder, who’s now their silent partner.
Ferraiuolo has worked in purchasing and roasting at Mighty Good Coffee and Ypsi’s Ugly Mug. She tended bar at Casey’s Tavern while working on getting the renovations and permits completed but is now at Electric Eye full-time. Pell kept her day job as a financial advisor in Northville (she’s transferring to Ann Arbor in the fall).
Those nightmares mostly concerned construction and zoning. “We learned a lot of things, like the three-part sink can’t be accessible to the public, so you have to have a divider,” says Ferraiuolo. This meant the original kitchen would be no good to them. Though they started off wanting to do a lot of the renovation themselves, they quickly realized that they’d need help.
The two speak warmly about the support they’ve received from neighbors and patrons but bemoan the headaches of contracting. “Our [first] plumber was terrible!” Pell says. “He showed up one day a week for months,” Ferraiuolo adds, “and then continued to tell us that we didn’t know what we were doing.
“The parking lot, of all things, took the longest,” says Ferraiuolo. Though it adjoins the house, it had previously been used by next-door neighbors Van Winkle Mattress Company, and had to be legally assigned to the house to get the commercial zoning. “It took like three months for it to go through!” she says.
The cafe’s name is a reference to both the song by Judas Priest and a lyric in David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream.” “Taking it from that and then into coffee … It’s like you’re opening up your third eye,” says Ferraiuolo. Pell’s pet pug, Frank, is a fitting mascot: he has only one eye.
Electric Eye Cafe, 811 N. Main.
Daily 7 a.m.-7 p.m. electriceyecafe.com