While most entrepreneurs are satisfied with owning a single business, one Bay City woman is investing in her hometown with three different businesses.
"For me, it's about challenge and change," says Lyndsay Edmonds, owner of Harless + Hugh Coffee
, Harless + Hugh Loft
, and The Public House
. "When I opened The Public House, I knew nothing about bartending, about cocktails, or the bar business. I love constant challenge, and I think learning new things is what keeps people going.”
Harless Hugh Coffee, Edmonds's first business, is named after her great-great-grandfather who raised seven children who all became entrepreneurs
Walking into Harless + Hugh Coffee on 1003 Washington Avenue in Bay City, the walls and furniture are black, white and wood, and there is a group of people seated at a bar serving as front-row seats to the baristas making coffee. There are four bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling over the bar, but most of the light is coming from the shop's storefront: two large windowed alcoves that also have tables and benches for seating. There is a room in the back with a couch, candles, lamps, and tables.
For Edmonds, the pull towards entrepreneurship started after a desire to come back to Bay City.
"I was teaching English in Italy and had this draw to come back and do something in my hometown," says Edmonds. She returned home and worked for Populace Coffee owner Andrew Heppner as he opened a coffee shop of his own. As the success of Heppner's roasting took off, Edmonds offered to purchase the business.
Eventually, Edmonds rebranded, naming the shop after her great-great-grandfather who had seven kids who all became entrepreneurs, making Harless + Hugh Coffee her first business.
"When I was traveling, I noticed that coffee shops were this common theme through many cultures, and I loved that," she says. "I think there's something great about doing something in your hometown. Everyone supports you, and you have the opportunity to bring things of real quality to a place that needs it."
The coffee shop sits directly undeneath another one of Edmonds ventures, a rental loft
Becoming a business owner can be a shock for some, as the hours are long, the responsibility high, and the skills to operate a successful business are often not as glamorous as the skills needed to make the product or provide the service.
But the transition from employee to employer was relatively easy considering the entrepreneurial DNA running in her family.
"I've helped both my parents with their businesses, so I knew that while I loved coffee, I understood that it wasn't going to be this romantic thing where I got to sit around and drink coffee all day,” she says. “Working with it and serving it to the community is completely different from drinking it. My grandparents owned a flower shop, and everybody loves flowers, but making arrangements day in and day out is a completely different thing."
Seeing the success of the coffee shop and following her desire to continually learn new things led Edmonds to consider entrepreneurship with a different kind of beverage.
The Public House opened in 2017 and is located at 811 Adam Street in Bay City.
The Public House, which opened in June of 2017 on 811 Adams Street, has a similar feel in design to the coffee shop but in a larger space and with the addition of plant life, specifically a large, live wall filled with plants located behind the bar.
The Public House offers handcrafted cocktails with a seasonal food menu, and Edmonds says her focus is on creating a space that offers both quality as well as a place where people feel comfortable gathering.
"I definitely wanted to open a bar with a focus on the highest quality products," she says. "Whether that's using housemade syrups or juicing our own citrus, I want people to experience a drink for the craft of it."
The craft cocktail experience requires training that goes all the way down to the ice being used in the drinks. Using machines that create giant blocks of crystal-clear ice, bartenders cut the blocks based on what best suits the drinks being made, ranging from large, single pieces of ice for drinks "on the rocks" to finely shaved pieces of ice for certain cocktails.
Edmonds says that she wants her bar to draw people to the experience of handcrafted drinks
To some, a bar offering craft cocktails and hand-shaved ice seems out of place in Bay City, but Edmonds says that she views the Public House as playing a role in a bigger picture.
"I want people to realize what a great place Bay City is," she says. "We have affordable living with amazing options here. I would love to see a place like The Public House contribute to everyone continuing to up their game, care about what they’re putting forward, and offering quality to the community, because the community deserves it."
Originally intended to have an exclusive, speakeasy feel to it, Edmonds decided to embrace an open, welcoming vibe instead.
"We want to create a place for people that's somewhere between home and work," she says. "Where can people go to rest or celebrate or have conversation. We want to make those places."
Owner Lyndsay Edmonds mixes a drink at the Public House
Edmond's third endeavor is Harless + Hugh Loft, a loft apartment in downtown Bay City located directly above the coffee shop, available for rent via Airbnb.
Airbnb rentals are relatively new to the area, but Edmonds says the demand is there.
“We were booked 25 of 31 days in December," she says.
The loft feels larger than expected, with hardwood floors, two bedrooms, brick walls, an open kitchen area, and deck with a table and chairs. Guests receive gift cards to the coffee shop and to The Public House as a gift for their stay in the rental.
Though Airbnb rentals are relatively new to Bay County, Edmonds says the demand is high as the loft is booked through most of each month
“With the loft, I can get very intentional, putting little touches on their stay where they can walk into the room and say, ‘Wow, I get to stay here for the next 24 hours,’” she says.
For Edmonds, the loft fits the theme of the coffee shop and bar. Where the coffee shop and the bar are spaces for people to be together in a larger, more public way, the loft offers them an opportunity to be together in a more personal way.
"I love hospitality, and the loft is a different form of hospitality," she says. "I love taking care of people and creating experiences for them. The loft came out of a super negative situation when we needed funding, and its blossomed."
She says having a healthy perspective about negative experiences is critical for surviving the life of an entrepreneur.
The loft has two bedrooms, one bathroom, a deck, and is located in downtown Bay City.
"It's important to not see problems as problems, but as challenges for growth," she says. "It's being able to have a challenge and ask, 'Ok, how can we be creative?' Challenges are growth opportunities and not these little fires you desperately have to try and put out every single day."
Edmonds also sees seeking out new experiences as important for growth as an entrepreneur.
"I think traveling and intentionally looking for new things is something that makes someone a great entrepreneur," she says. "You need to be willing to open your eyes and change."
Edmonds wants her businesses to play an important part in the growing group of entrepreneurs bringing attention to the area
With three businesses and hopes for expansion in the future, what would Edmonds like to see from Bay County's entrepreneurial community?
"There are so many young entrepreneurs starting to contribute to the community, and businesses who have been downtown for twenty years or more who are still thriving," she says, “and we need to support both old and new businesses. We have a downtown that isn't full of big box stores or corporate chains - they're all local. Sometimes I hear people say 'Let's try to be Frankenmuth' or 'Let's try to be Detroit'," she says, "but I think we should just be us."