Jefferson Market and Cakery, a beloved Old West Side institution, is transforming into a Mighty Good Coffee cafe. Nic Sims, the company’s “brand ambassador” and spouse of cofounder David Myers, is stepping back from her administrative duties to take a hands-on role in running the new location. She is so hands-on that she was wielding a brush, painting the shelves behind the front case, as she spoke about her plans in early March. Myers used a long roller brush to tackle the opposite wall, and an employee scrubbed a baking cart. All this furious activity aimed at reopening as soon as possible. “If you say late March, early April, you won’t be wrong,” Sims predicts.
The new cafe will continue many Jefferson Market traditions, including weekend brunch and “French Fry Fridays.” “We have a great respect for what has been done here before us; we want to honor that,” Sims says.
The sale came about so quickly that business plans are still catching up.
“We found out that Mary was accepting offers at the eleventh hour,” Sims says.
“Everybody’s left me,” Mary Rasmussen explains. When she moved her “cakery” (a word she coined) into the little market across from Bach Elementary nine years ago, her sister worked with her on cake design, her daughters staffed the front counter, and her sister-in-law taught across the street. Now everyone’s moved on, and without family around the heavy workload that goes with owning a small business lost its appeal.
Rasmussen chose Mighty Good, another family-owned business, because of their long-standing relationship. Mighty Good was interested in the space when Rasmussen bought it in 2008, but the timing wasn’t right, Sims says. At the time, she had just closed the doors on her personal chef service, Skip to My Roux, to help Myers and partner Jim Levinsohn launch Mighty Good. Now, she says, the timing is perfect. The couple’s children are in college, and Mighty Good is flying high with three other cafes in the Ann Arbor area and a robust wholesale service supplying local grocery stores and other restaurants and cafes.
For Sims, the new location gives her an opportunity to get back to cooking. “Food is love to me,” she says. “If you take a bite and you get a big smile on your face, that makes me really happy.”
Sims will take advantage of the in-house commercial kitchen to create more food choices than at their other cafes on Main St., South University, and Wash-tenaw. In addition to weekend brunches and French fries, she expects to offer easy breakfasts and sandwiches and soups at lunchtime on weekdays. With no time yet to plan a menu, though, “right now it’s all possibilities, it’s all fantasy.”
She plans to continue sweets and treats provided by existing vendors like the Croissant Shop, but most of the staff will turn over, as Mighty Good Coffee’s java offerings are extensive, and their baristas go through rigorous training. Mighty Good has retained the Cakery’s baker and decorator to fulfill existing cake orders through the end of June. And Sims’ sober Brillig Dry Bar, which originated in Mighty Good’s Main St. spot, will eventually migrate to Jefferson St. as well.
The Jefferson Market is one of the few neighborhood stores that survive from the pre-zoning era (see Question Corner, p. 19). More than anything Sims wants to retain the charm of a small business nestled inside a residential neighborhood.
“When you come in here,” she says, “I want you to have an experience that you can’t get anywhere else.”
Jefferson Market, 609 W. Jefferson. 665-6666. Opening late March-early April. thejeffersonmarket.com