As if to prove that there’s still room for locals downtown, John Roos is bringing a RoosRoast cafe to E. Liberty, replacing Elixir Vitae.

“Maybe I’ll call it RoosRoast 2.0,” he says enthusiastically. “Don’t they name computer stuff like that?” This almost certainly won’t be what it’s called–when we interviewed him a few years ago about his original cafe on Rosewood off South Industrial, he spontaneously came up with the name RoosRoast Anti-Cafe, which was never, to our knowledge, used anywhere. But he wasn’t lying when he said big changes were going to happen quickly at his new location. In early March he promised a very solid interior wall would come down, and four days later it was gone and he was making plans to move the front door.

Roos travels the world. Shortly after talking to us he was off to Costa Rica on a coffee-buying trip. The former ski bum has worked high-end restaurants in New York, L.A., Colorado, and Europe, and counts among his friends celebrity chefs like Jimmy Bradley and Michael Schwartz. But, he says, “I’m born and raised here. I should be down here”–downtown. In the 1960s, his dad, Dick Roos, and his uncle Danny operated Art’s Barber Shop on Main, where Pangborn gallery is now.

Roos roasts coffee on Rosewood, and he’ll continue to keep the cafe there, but he says he needs a more visible presence in Ann Arbor. His most famous blend, Lobster Butter Love–named for its richness–is sold in markets and restaurants all over town, but it rankles him that RoosRoast is not yet a household word. “I was talking to two girls at Bivouac and told them I own RoosRoast, and they’d never heard of it. Same thing over at the gelato place on William.” He’s educating them one by one. Hearing a faint knock on the door of his new space on Liberty, he shoots out the door and chases a woman down the street, calling: “… RoosRoast … we’ll be here soon! Come and visit us!”

Planning a late-April opening, he says he’ll have all the usual coffee drinks and “some noshy stuff. It’s still a secret. We’re working with the health department to get a nice simple menu.” He’s not at all worried about the competition, though just a block away are Starbucks, Espresso Royale, and the cafe inside Shinola. “A lot of tourists are pouring in here” to shop at Shinola and eat at the restaurants, he says. “Hopefully we can show them the light–we’ll have an espresso bar, brewed coffee, featuring single origins. Of course, we’ll have Lobster Butter Love.”

When Roos returned to Ann Arbor in 2002 from his years of traveling, he had wanted to start a restaurant but got stuck on coffee. “It’s more simple. It’s complex and intense, but it’s a simple thing. I talk to so many people who say, ‘I don’t eat this, I don’t eat that,’ but do you drink coffee? Yeah, they drink coffee.”

He hasn’t settled on hours yet. “I’d like to open early, earlier than Starbucks, for people who are driving to work really early.” Starbucks opens at 5:30 a.m. “That would be crazy, but why not?”

Roos said Elmo had come by “to give us his blessing.” He was sad about Elmo’s departure from Main St., but he doesn’t have any worries about the rent. His landlord is Bill Zirinsky, who also owns Crazy Wisdom and the building that houses it, as well as commercial and office properties in other cities. Zirinsky quickly dismisses the notion that downtown is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. “If you were to count all the retail storefronts on East Liberty, Main St., Washington, State, South U, and Kerrytown, and add up how many stores are having their rents increased substantially,” he says, “it probably represents a very small percentage.”

He points out that people have worried about locals being priced out of downtown for decades–“I was in this town as a college student when the first [downtown] McDonald’s opened on Maynard” in the 1970s. (It didn’t last, nor did another on South U.) When Urban Outfitters arrived on State in the late 1980s, people again announced the premature death of local business.

As Zirinsky sees it, with the departure of Pfizer and the recession, Ann Arbor experienced “a period of flatness” that held rents in check. Now, as leases are being renewed, rents are rising again. He says that Rahmani is not the only person who has recently bought some real estate and “paid premium prices or overpaid.” But he also says he’d be very surprised to learn that “all the existing building owners in town are jacking up rents.” As for his own new tenant, he says, “I’m excited and pleased that RoosRoast is moving in. It’s a cool and interesting local business.”