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Bjurman and Huckabone of Vertex

Getting the Point

Vertex lands a sunny compus spot.

by Sabine Bickford

From the July, 2019 issue

A year after closing his Coffee Works A2, Matthew Bjurman, the owner of the popular Milan Coffee Works, has partnered with former employee Kara Huckabone to return to Ann Arbor. Vertex Coffee Roasters is a separate entity, but Bjurman will be using the same equipment to create unique blends for each location. "It's like a sister company," says Huckabone.

"The name Vertex was inspired by our actual location as a vertex of two roads," Huckabone explains--the triangular southwest corner of South University and Washtenaw. "And then also we're kind of at the edge of campus and the townie community--Angell Elementary is right over there--so we're hoping to kind of be a vertex for that as well."

Vertex replaces Mighty Good Coffee in a glassed-in corner of Campus Realty's m office-apartment building on the corner. Designed by local Midcentury Modern architect Jim Livingston, it's one of several stylish low-rise campus-area apartments built by the Campus Realty's late founder Jack Stegeman--who also developed the Campus Inn and Tower Plaza. Bjurman and Huckabone have underscored the bright windows and stark white walls with dark stained wood shelves and furniture. Huckabone says they're adding pillows to the window benches "so you don't have to think about how it looks from the outside to be leaning against the window."

The fourteen-item wood-tiled menu on the wall evokes a stack of Scrabble racks and features three different techniques of coffee brewing: drip, manual, and "flash chilled." "Instead of cold brew, it's another kind of cold coffee," says Huckabone. "We brew it hot over ice." The shop also offers a selection of gluten-free pastries from local bakeries, including Tasty Bakery and Why Not Pie. "I'm gluten-free, so it's kind of partially selfish," says Huckabone.

While Bjurman had to run Coffee Works A2 from his home base in Milan, Huckabone, a U-M grad, is Vertex's full-time woman-on-the-ground. Though she taught music in the Ann Arbor Public Schools after graduation, she says, "I always knew I

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wanted to work in coffee." A longtime patron of Milan Coffeeworks, she left the schools last June to become Bjurman's director of coffee education--teaching classes on "coffee basics."

When Bjurman heard that the Mighty Good Coffee owners were closing their retail shops (Marketplace Changes, May), he suggested that she open her own, but the two decided their working relationship was worth preserving. "He's just been really supportive of my ideas and wanting to grow and my professional development, and we work well together," says Huckabone. "So it was pretty easy to say like, oh, the next step would be business partners. We always felt like colleagues."

Vertex Coffee, 1335 S. University. (248) 767-4488. Mon.-Fri. 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat. & Sun. 8 a.m.-2 p.m.     (end of article)

[Originally published in July, 2019.]


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