With 10 years under its belt on Wealthy Street, The Sparrows Coffee Tea and Newsstand expanded this weekend with the opening of its second location.
Housed at 442 Bridge St. NW, the new Sparrows coffee shop also includes a roastery that will supply both locations and be available for wholesale and a second Books & Mortar location, which sits in the back portion of the space.
Lori Slager Wenzel, owner of The Sparrows, described the new location as the “scrappy younger sister” in comparison to the Wealthy Street shop. The descriptor makes sense, given that the shop sits behind the statue of boxer Stanley Ketschel. “We like how he’s a middle weight that is famous for holding his own with a heavy weight,” Slager Wenzel said.
The décor is similar to the Wealthy Street location in that it’s cozy and inviting, but it also has a distinct feel all its own.
“We had Anvil Goods build our furniture with a bit of an art deco vibe, but it still has the old wood floors and evolving decor. We, of course, will still have our newsstand and cozy vibe with lots of plants.
“We also have a cupping room and a visible roasting room to invite conversation about coffee. We want our customers to come and talk with us about our coffee and familiarize themselves with the roasting and cupping process.”
Julia Lancer, The Sparrows director of coffee, was hired to run the roastery program. She has 15 years of experience in the industry. “Running a business is time consuming enough, so having someone that I trust take care of that whole part of The Sparrows was a huge help,” Slager Wenzel said.
The Sparrow’s is also excited to have Books & Mortar on site.
“The back of our space was quite large, so we are lucky to have our friends Books & Mortar opening a pop up shop in the back. Because what goes better with coffee than books? It fit our story so well to have them join us in our space, and we think Grand Rapids will love what they’re putting together.”
Slager Wenzel said the two locations share a staff, so you are likely to see a familiar face when you stop into the new shop.
The menu is also similar, though each shop will have a few items distinct to that location. “We are updating the way we serve our tea, so our tea menu there will be slightly different as well,” Slager Wenzel said.
The Sparrow’s West Side shop is located on a bustling block that includes O’Tooles and Butcher’s Union. The area is undergoing a resurgence and Slager Wenzel said the neighborhood reminds her of what Wealthy Street was like when she first opened The Sparrows there.
“The West Side has such a rich history and strong community, and reminded me of when we opened on Wealthy and really connected with the neighborhood. Sparrows has a love of stories and my favorite part of building out the cafe on Bridge Street has been hearing all of the stories about that area of town. From our contractors to my Uber drivers, everyone has a memory about life on the West Side. I feel like it’s really poetic and fitting for us.”
Slager Wenzel said the motivation behind opening a second location had a lot to do with her growing family.
“When I lived on my own, Sparrows was able to financially support me and my lifestyle pretty easily. Then I got married and had three babies in three years and I realized I needed to grow my business to support us a little better. Plus, when is there a better time to expand your business than when you have three babies under three years old?”