Recent updates in the Ypsilanti-area food and drink scene include new businesses and ownership changes at existing establishments. We caught up with two new businesses – one selling juice, the other coffee – and an established bar and grill making some big changes.
No Label Juice
Nashia Weems started her Ypsi-based natural juice company, No Label Juice
, during the COVID-19 pandemic, using an unconventional marketing method.
"I was juicing and posting content on social media, and people were asking if I could make them some juice," she says. "I ended up bottling maybe 30 juices and did what I called Sample Sundays, driving around town and passing out free juice to people who enquired."
Weems also met her boyfriend and business partner, Brandon Frye, through juicing when she was selling juices at a local basketball tournament. He liked the juice and offered to put his graphic design experience to work creating a logo.
No Label Juice.
Weems says her drink ingredients are "minimalistic" but informed by a class she took in nutrition. One of her best sellers is her "Beet Around" juice, featuring beets, apples, and cucumbers. She says beets are a good food for those struggling with high blood pressure, while cucumber is great for hydration.
"We don't add any artificial flavor. It's all fruit and veggies, no added sugars," she says.
Weems says the name No Label Juice came from her early, unlabeled free samples, but there's another, more community-minded meaning behind the name.
Brandon Frye and Nashia Weems of No Label Juice.
"We want to give back and help people acquire resources, and we want to help those people without giving them labels," Frye says. "Sometimes it's a stigma to go and seek out health. We want to encourage anybody who needs assistance to get help and seek out resources."
Currently, Weems makes her juices at Growing Hope
's incubator kitchen, and she regularly vends at the farmers markets in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. She also sold her juices at a variety of community events over the summer, like Growing Hope's Community Day this past August.
"We have hopes of expanding and being in different markets," Weems says. "You can look forward to seeing us in different cities soon."
Ypsilanti's newest neighborhood coffee shop, Cafe Liv
, wasn't in owner William Sloan's plans three years ago when he purchased the auto mechanic's shop at 202 N. Washington St. When the COVID-19 pandemic came to Michigan in 2020, his tenants were struggling to stay open or keep employees. Sloan, an experienced property manager, offered them reduced rent for a year but says it became clear the tenants weren't going to reopen their shop any time soon.
"I started thinking about what would be a good use here for the community and started talking to people at the city about what would be a benefit to the local neighborhood, and the idea of a coffee shop popped up," he says.
Sloan says it took "a considerable investment" to remodel the shop into a cafe, but the shop's floor-to-ceiling bay windows remain.
Sloan held a soft opening in mid-July for the new venture, which he named after his young daughter, Olivia. He poured espresso shots himself for the first few weeks the shop was open, adding a head barista later in the summer.
Sloan says the shop offers seasonal specials like a caramel apple latte, but he likes keeping the menu simple.
"It's a neighborhood coffee shop," Sloan says. "You come meet up with your colleague or friends [and] get a cup of coffee. I wanted the coffee to be on point."
Sloan says he hopes to host workshops, musical performances, weekend pop-up dinners or food trucks, and other community events at the cafe.
Changes at The Regal Beagle
The Regal Beagle
, located at 817 E Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti Township, has had a rough reputation. Serious fights have broken out at the bar
, which was also known as a biker hangout in its previous incarnation as Arthur's Bar
But staff have been looking to build a friendlier reputation for the bar since new owner Ian Greenlee took it over in summer 2021. The Regal Beagle recently added barbecue to the menu and live music to the entertainment roster.
Regal Beagle Bar Manager Matteo Melosi with his dog Zeus.
Pit Master Kurt Prowell barbecues meat over Michigan cherry wood in large smokers outside the restaurant. Prowell also helps coordinate the establishment's music schedule. He says he thought Ypsi was "lacking a music venue in which anybody and everybody can play." Staff just finished building a stage in the corner of the building to make a more welcoming space for musicians.
Performers have included folk, hip-hop, punk, metal, garage, and American roots music acts. The Regal Beagle will host a couple of country swing bands this fall, and the roster is fully packed with more than 30 bands booked for October.
"We want more of an all-inclusive community roadhouse," Prowell says.
The Regal Beagle Pit Master Kurt Prowell.
Barbecue is the backbone of the Regal Beagle's new menu, and featured meats rotate, though Prowell says brisket is usually one of the choices. He recommends calling the bar or checking its Facebook page
for the daily menu.
Bar Manager Matteo Melosi says he feels the new offerings at The Regal Beagle fill "a pretty big void" for a welcoming restaurant with healthy offerings. He says there's no oil, butter, or mayo in the building, and meats are seasoned with dry rubs.
"There hasn't been a hospitable place in this neighborhood for 30 years except for fast food," Melosi says. "... There were ladies who lived here behind this bar for 40 years and have never been in it, and now they bring their families. Good things are happening in the neighborhood."
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at email@example.com.
All photos by Doug Coombe except No Label Juice photos courtesy of No Label Juice.