New owners are operating the Exquisite Corpse Coffee House
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes… a coffee shop.
Nathaniel and Maggie Bottenfield are the new owners of The Exquisite Corpse Coffee House, 410 Water St., after Patti Yunker, who founded it five years ago, decided to hand over the reins.
Thinking about the future
Maggie worked at Exquisite Corpse in 2015 for six months before leaving to teach English in Mexico with Nathaniel. It was Nathaniel Bottenfield works behind the scenes at Exquisite Corpse Coffee.there, in a coffee shop, the two started plotting a 10-year plan to open their own.
The Blue Water Region natives say a coffee shop is a natural fit.
Maggie loves coffee, and Nathaniel has always felt entrepreneurship fits with his personality. They didn't think Port Huron would be an option, though, the Exquisite Corpse's roaster would be too much competition.
Timing is everything
With plans to tie the knot in June 2017 and buy a house, Maggie resumed working for the shop again in April for extra money. When Yunker sat her down for a talk about future plans and goals just one month after the wedding, Maggie had no idea what her boss was about to ask.
"'Why don't you just take this?' She said it like that!," Maggie says. "She had been thinking about it and watching us. She was ready to retire."
Yunker had been keeping an eye on the young couple. She had seen them work together in 2016 at Anchor Fries food truck, which Nathaniel ran for a summer.
The couple barely had to talk about considering the offer; the idea seemed to play out to the benefit of everyone involved.
"Everything has happened the way it needs to happen in, for us, a very Godly way. We went to Mexico because we felt like we should, then we did a lot of praying and trying to figure out what He has (in store) for us. Since then, it's been one thing after another," Nathaniel says. "It's obvious to us that this is exactly where we need to be."
Maggie Bottenfield works behind the counter at Exquisite Corpse Coffee HouseThe Bottenfields assumed ownership in December after both working at the coffee house full-time for a month. Nathaniel had no experience with coffee beforehand, but does have an associate degree in general business from St. Clair County Community College; Maggie has her associate in general education. They have had very few complications so far due to encouraging customers, the help of family, the Blue Water Startups and Entrepreneurs and, of course, Yunker.
"She makes it so easy and tells us, ‘Breathe,' or, ‘It will work out.'" She's kind of become like a second mother for us," Nathaniel says. "She built the best foundation we possibly could have, and now we're just adding a little bit to it."
Change is good
When the duo decided to open the shop on Mondays, some regulars came in simply because the option was available, to make sure the new owners felt good about the change.
"We have some really solid regulars, which is cool. You get to become close with them," Nathaniel says.
Yunker had procedures already set in place and running for years, so the logistics of opening up a business are less of a hassle for the Bottenfields, as are payments. Yunker didn't even want a lawyer to transfer the company, but they ended up needing one legally. The couple's payment plan is straight-forward and relatively manageable because the business and its items, all in wonderful condition, will be paid off over time without a huge, initial bulk payment.
Maggie says Yunker didn't ask for anything to stay the same, so she and Nathaniel are able to incorporate their personalities into the place even though it once belonged to someone else.
Doughnuts and cookies are new additions to the menu at Exquisite Corpse Coffee.The first thing on the agenda was to create a local menu, which Nathaniel's mom helped with. While The Exquisite Corpse focuses on specialty coffees, quick bites that go well with a cup of joe are accompanying options now. Scones, which Yunker bakes, bagels, bread, and danish from The Mulefoot Gastropub, a farm-to-table restaurant in Imlay City, doughnuts from Chef Shell, and cookies from Betsy's Bakes are all offered. Sandwiches include simple selections like peanut butter and jelly or the crowd favorite, The Millennial, which has cream cheese, avocado, and tomato for $3.99 (reviews rave about the low prices here).
They also took down the gold rat statue outside that marked The Exquisite Corpse's accompanying Gold Rodent Art Gallery. Art will still be a part of the coffeehouse, but more intertwined with monthly showings.
The delicious coffee customers have come to expect will remain. The Exquisite Corpse is unique in that it has its own roaster, Coffee options are spelled out on the wall at Exquisite Corpse Coffee.so what you get in your cup has been freshly roasted in the last few days.
The shop has and will continue to get their raw coffee beans from Java Master in Wixom, some standards and some new rotating selections. The ones Nathaniel picks out are single origin.
"It's coming straight from an estate, which is the highest quality coffee that it can be," Nathaniel explains. "We've maintained about 14 different roasts from South Africa to Africa, Asia, and Hawaii, so those are our main ones, and then espresso, but we have the option of switching it up a little bit. I buy random beans for limited editions sometimes."
With the newlyweds opening the shop on Mondays, they now work six days a week and often ten hour days, but the team work aspect comes easily.
Nathaniel likes crunching numbers, Maggie likes marketing and putting events together, and they both roast beans and serve customers. Most of their work gets done during long days at the shop, so they have hardly had to put time in at home when they can cuddle up with their new goldendoodle, Yurgi, named after Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee.
Patrons can find more than just coffee and munchies at the shop.
Maggie has line up an essential oils class, open mic night, Alfie Jean performance, and Chelsea Ward art show lined up in February.
When they do have some free time from the coffee shop, the Bottenfields enjoy supporting fellow entrepreneurs in Port Huron.
"We go to The Raven all the time. A lot of people think we're competitors, but we love The Raven. They have great food!" Nathaniel says.
Nathaniel and Maggie Bottenfield are eager to make their coffee shop dreams come true at Exquisite Corpse.The couple frequents Sperry's, Fuel, Lynch's Irish Tavern, Bangkok Star, Casey's, and other downtown businesses, too. Nathaniel says downtown businesses support one another.
"We're on the cusp of something big downtown, but if we're going to get to the next level, we have to work together," he says. "We all have the same mindset, even if we're doing things a bit differently."
Dreaming of tomorrow
Nathaniel and Maggie are both 23 and are the only two on staff. Taking on this new endeavor is time-consuming, hard work, but they see their youth as a benefit because they are bright-eyed about it. It is new to them.
"We are so excited about having this, and we haven't gone through corporate jobs or anything. This is the start of our lives. We're ready for anything," Maggie says.