Lantern Coffee Bar & Lounge to brew up more than just coffee in growing Commerce Ave. district

The owners of the former Ada Coffee Bar hope to bring more than just good, hot brews to the growing business district on southwest Commerce Avenue. Kevin Wallace and Steve Wiltjer plan to open Lantern Coffee Bar & Lounge on April 26 as a warm and welcoming gathering spot for friends, business meetings, and the lone student pursuing studies.

Wiltjer, 29, says the duo came up with the "lantern" name as "something that would communicate the kind of space and ambience we want to create…the old street lantern represents warmth and safety and welcoming that people gather around."

To that end, Wiltjer and Wallace are busy transforming the 1,450-square-foot space in the Grand Central Lofts building (100 Commerce Ave. SW) into a multi-level coffee house with specialty drinks, casual seating areas for larger and smaller groups, and a small stage for music or the spoken word. The entry level on the corner of Commerce SW and Oakes St. SW opens to a walkout level a few steps below. Above the shop are 31 new market-rate apartments.

"We've been looking for something downtown for a quite a while," Wiltjer says. "I saw an article on this building in Rapid Growth. I met with the landlord, fell in love with the building, and we moved forward."

The décor, designed by Wiltjer's wife, Rachel Bush, will have an "old library feel with darker colors, comfortable and cozy, but still clean and fresh," he says.

The shop will serve coffee from Populace Coffee, a specialty roaster in Bay City, Mich., as well as a variety of teas, chai, and other non-coffee drinks. And while Wiltjer guarantees the drinks to be great, the focus is on an atmosphere where people will want to spend time. The shop will offer a table reservation service for casual gatherings and business meetings.

The April 26 grand opening (6 p.m. to 10 p.m.) will double as a fundraiser for the YWCA.

Source: Steve Wiltjer, Lantern Coffee Bar & Lounge
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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