By Christopher Nagy
This isn’t your grandfather’s cup o’ joe.
After years of building a solid reputation as a wholesale coffee roaster, Andrew Heppner decided it was time to bring his popular Populace Coffee to the masses. Since opening his storefront cafe in downtown Bay City with business partner Dave Daniele in October 2017, Populace Coffee has become the spot for residents to get their daily java fix with some of the most refined and sophisticated roasts from around the globe.
However, don’t be intimidated by the upscale product. Any snooty, froufrou pretentiousness can be checked at the door.
“We’re down to earth. If someone wants to talk about coffee, we can do that. We can also talk about the weather if they want to,” Heppner said.
The goal isn’t to educate people about coffee, he added. The aim of Populace Coffee is to create an inviting community space where people can come and relax.
“We don’t intend on creating spaces that might intimidate or exhaust someone just trying to get a cup of coffee,” Daniele said. “But if your curiosity piques you, our staff is ready to have that conversation (about coffee).”
A graduate of Bay City Central High School, Heppner launched Populace Coffee as a wholesale roastery in 2010. His consulting as a wholesaler gave Heppner vast insight into what it would take to get a retail operation off the ground. When the Bay City location became available – and happened to be a former coffee shop where Heppner worked as a 15-year-old – he knew he couldn’t pass up the chance to open a storefront in his hometown.
Heppner and Daniele spent summer 2017 inside the space working on updates and improvements.
“Just removing and cleaning some of the antiquated bits of decor while preserving the space’s beautiful architectural bones,” Daniele said. “I think people really responded well to the updates, as well as some of the continued comfort and recognition from some of that spot’s loyal regulars.”
Heppner said the goal of Populace Coffee is to eventually expand; however, there are no immediate plans. Until then, Populace will continue to draw the region’s coffee connoisseurs to Bay City.
“Populace Coffee has been an addition to downtown Bay City that every community needs,” said Ryan Tarrant, president and CEO of the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. “It has become a go-to location for coffee meetings and the space has been perfect for our Energize YPN coffee socials, which bring up to 30 area young professionals together monthly.”
Brewed to Perfection
The offerings at Populace Coffee depend on the harvest seasons of some of the best coffee-growing regions around the world.
Back to His Roots
Populace Coffee opened in a former cafe location where its founder worked as a 15-year-old.
While the level of coffee at Populace has been popular on the East and West coasts for some time, it has been gaining appreciation in the Midwest recently.