I’ve got a Feeling
Twenty-six years ago, right after the St. Patrick’s Day parade, Brad Wilderman was walking down Water Street when something caught his eye.
“Something said, 'look at this spot.' So I got ahold of the owner of the building and worked out a deal. About a month later, I opened with a couple tables, a few chairs, and a few pictures on the wall. Right from the start, we were on the cutting edge of entertainment and speciality beverages. We were the only coffee house in the area offering alcohol-free karaoke with a DJ...We packed 100 people in here. They’d line up down the street to sing, drink great drinks, be with friends and family, and have fun.”
For almost a decade, Espresso Express featured karaoke from 8-12 pm at 916 N. Water Street.
“About a decade later, we decided to innovate and restructure.”
Here Comes The Sun
It was Wilderman’s love of music that inspired his unique vision, “the greatest specialty beverage spectacle on earth.”
“I’m a huge Kiss fan. I was thinking Kiss and Coffee or Kiss Me Coffee, but that is such a niche market. The Rolling Stones were another one. I even thought about a British Invasion theme...we wanted something timeless and fun. F.U.N. And something that promotes peace and love.”
Brad continued, “And you know, there’s just something about The Beatles...”
“We knew we had to make Beatles and Beans an attraction so people would come and see it to believe it. You have to stick out. You have to be different.”
“The distance people are willing to travel to come here blows me away. Just a few weeks ago we had a whole van load of two mothers and their teenage daughters and a couple friends fight a storm from Marquette Michigan to get here at 8 am. They stayed for hours!”
There are many loyal local patrons, but Beatles’ fans visit from around the state, midwest, and across the universe.
There’s A Place
“It's a crazy upside-down world out there, for sure. When I leave here I have to go out into the crazy world too, but in here is a refreshing musical magical sanctuary,” said Wilderman.
The main goal of Beatles and Beans is to bring love and joy to the people who walk through the doors of their cash-only coffee house.
Much of the decor of Beatles and Beans is collectibles, folk art, and true vintage pieces from the world.
And yes, Wilderman will continue to add to his collection “As long as the oceans are wide and the skies are blue.”
After their 20th year of business in Bay City, the State of Michigan gave Beatles and Beans a special tribute for their incredible accomplishments and tenure.
On their 25th year, they received the World Championship World Specialty Coffee Belt.
The Long and Winding Road
“I grew up in the coffee houses. I always thought they were cool as a teenager. I remember thinking someday I might work in one or have one of my own.”
Wilderman was born in Washington state and moved to Las Vegas Nevada after high school to get into the hotel and entertainment industry. He started out bussing tables in a casino restaurant before moving his way up into bartending and management positions at several casinos.
“In the early 90s, I decided to make a move to Michigan.”
I Saw Her Standing There
Peggy Wilderman, Brad’s partner and general manager, was born and raised in Bay City.
“She came along a few years after I opened. She is a huge coffee lover. She worked at one of the banks downtown here. She came in, and we started having coffee together. A few years later she retired from the bank and she offered to help here. It's been a great partnership indeed!”
“This gem of a place belongs to all the people from all over the world that come in and support the place. They don’t get to take it home, but they get to come in and enjoy it for sure," said Peggy. “Plan a day tripper! Set your GPS for 916 N. Water Street and get here! We are open 8-5 during the summer. Monday through Saturday 6 days a week.”