On Friday, August 11, Main St. staple Espresso Royale will serve its last cup of joe. The closing will not affect the company’s other cafes in the Ann Arbor area.
“This space served us well for years,” says Lisa Tuveson, the company’s vice president of operations. Founder Marcus Goller opened it in 1991, shortly after the company’s first cafe on State St. The downtown retail landscape was very different from today’s.
“It was kind of run down,” Tuveson said, “The Full Moon [bar, where Ravens Club is now] was the nicest thing around.”
In those days, the coffeehouse craze had yet to take hold in Midwest college towns, and “Starbucks never opened stores on college campuses,” she recalls.
Sweetwaters opened around the corner on Washington St. two years later. In the past decade, a Starbucks opened half a block south, Mighty Good a few blocks north, and Roos Roast around the corner on Liberty.
Meanwhile, rents continued to go up. Espresso Royale felt the increases with extra force because the Main St. cafe is so large–2,000 square feet. With no windows on Main, Tuveson says it also suffered from a lack of visibility.
Some of the new “third wave” coffeehouses cater primarily to cool young people or serve dessert-like coffee drinks to be consumed quickly on premises or taken away. But “we want everyone to feel welcome,” Tuveson says, “from bankers to families with children.” While she’s not ruling out a possible return to downtown–“we’d be open to another Main St. location”–for now their focus is elsewhere. They are opening their third store in Lansing and continue to experiment with new drink offerings.
Late in June, Heather Glidden and Darlene Sosenko signed a lease with Jim Curtis to take over the space. They’ll move the Gyrotonic Tree Town wellness studio there from its current spot above the Blue Tractor on Washington. The new studio, tentatively called Joy, is slated to open in October.
Glidden said she and Sosenko considered keeping a scaled-down cafe as part of the studio, offering nutritious, health-conscious food and drink, but neither of them had experience in the food industry. “We know movement really well,” she says, “so we decided to stick with that.”
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