Blue Owl Coffee Co. spared no time in opening new East Lansing location


In late November, Blue Owl Coffee Co. closed its downtown East Lansing location at 213 Ann St., which had been operating since 2019.

The team was back at it just two days later, working out of a new 1,700-square-foot space at 1034 Trowbridge Road that formerly housed Iorio Gelato and Meet Fresh, a Taiwanese dessert and tea chain.

“We were very fortunate to have most of our staff come out to help when we were moving everything. We ended up doing it all in a 24-hour period, so we were only closed for one day. I applaud them because they were amazing and helped us make it happen,” co-owner Rich Whitman said.

After taking a few months to settle in, the shop held its official grand-opening event last Friday (Feb. 16). Whitman said the decision to move was made shortly before the business’ lease at the Ann Street location expired at the end of November. The rent was higher than what was sustainable, so the owners started scouting out new digs.

“It felt like Trowbridge was a better location for us just because of the available parking. Of course, Trowbridge is also a main thoroughfare into the East Lansing campus,” Whitman said.

All 12 staff members made the move. By and large, they’re students from either Michigan State University or Lansing Community College. They’re now working out of a shop with about 300 fewer square feet of space than the previous one — but that’s not counting the patio.

“With the patio, our capacity will be higher. But right now, because of the cold weather, we’re at a capacity of about 54 inside,” Whitman said. “But in the spring and summer, we’ll be doing live music out there. We’ll also have some events with other local businesses here in this plaza, like Fresh Thyme Market and the Barre Code.”

While the setting has changed, the menu has retained a preference for Michigan-made products.

“Our pastries come from Sweetie-licious, which is located in DeWitt, and the majority of our coffee that we source outside our own comes from Michigan roasters,” Whitman said. “We’ve also added a weekly ‘barista favorite’ entry on the menu, where we’ll be coming up with new drinks each week that we’re featuring.”

All in all, the vibes at the new spot have exceeded Whitman’s expectations.

“The style of the shop is quite a bit different than what we had before. A lot of the furniture and stuff is the same, but this one, for me, feels more like a coffee shop than it did at our downtown location. You’ll get a feel for that when you walk in. It just feels natural,” he said.

While much of the foot traffic at the old location came from MSU students, the move has already expanded the business’ East Lansing customer base beyond that, Whitman said.

“We’ve been seeing an influx of new customers we’ve never seen before, which is great. We’re also seeing quite a diverse group of customers come through the door, from the students and faculty we saw before to families and businesspeople who live or work nearby,” he said.

Whitman, who also co-owns the other two Blue Owl locations in Old Town and REO Town, said the company’s next move could be to places well outside of Greater Lansing.

“We’re beginning to have discussions with potential licensees. They might not spring up here in the local area, but you might see them in the Grand Rapids area or in the Detroit area — wherever these licensees might decide they want to set up shop,” he said.



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