New coffee and food hub, That Early Bird, to open in former Kava House next month

When customers walk into the newly renovated cafe at 1445 Lake Dr. SE next month, owner Stephen Curtis says he hopes the new coffee and food bar will make them feel uplifted. 

“We wanted it to be a space that was uplifting to go into, so kind of clean and bright, but not super modern or austere or anything like that,” says Curtis, who co-owns That Early Bird in collaboration with chef Joel Wabeke, a graduate of New York’s Culinary Institute of America who not only spent time cooking at top U.K. restaurants The Fat Duck and The Hinds Head, but has also acted as chef de cuisine for six.one.six. in downtown Grand Rapids’ J.W. Marriot hotel and top Detroit restaurant Wright and Company.

Already an established coffee roaster himself, Curtis became co-owner of the retail and coffee bar Rowster Coffee, alongside its founder Kurt Stauffer, in a space at 632 Wealthy St. in June 2010, and he says he and Wabeke didn’t start talking seriously about opening a new space until last winter, when the pair were presented with an opportunity to take over the 2,000-square-foot Eastown building and former Kava House. 

Unique in its marriage of quality coffee beverages and seasonally crafted food options, hungry cafe goers can expect a menu featuring the best of all worlds — a full list of grab-and-go brewed coffees and craft espresso beverages alongside Wabeke's twists on old favorites, like breakfast sandwiches centered around homemade sourdough English muffins and Japanese milk bread, hearty grain based salads and vegetable soups. 

“What I love about Eastown is that it’s so walkable... There’s just a wider range of people living in Eastown, and also there’s so much to do in this neighborhood. And everyone is walking around here, and I think that mix is really cool,” says Curtis, who designed That Early Bird to be the kind of welcoming environment that finds its roots in the surrounding community by bringing together a diverse population in a place where everyone can feel comfortable.  

“In some ways, cafes are inherently built around a community, whether they’re trying to or not, just because it’s sort of that perfect place for a mix of people to come together from all different backgrounds and demographics and ages — it’s kind of the perfect melting pot,” he says. “…I think it's going to be awesome. I’m pretty excited for a different mash-up of food and coffee that doesn’t really exist right now anywhere in the city.” 

Though there’s no official opening date just yet, Curtis says he expects That Early Bird to wrap up renovations and open its doors sometime at early to mid-May. To stay in the loop, visit That Early Bird online, or donate to the Indiegogo campaign here through May 8. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Stephen Curtis/That Early Bird 
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