Michigan's only flower-growing cooperative and Cultivate Coffee and Tap House's roastery operations have both recently moved into Growing Hope's Robert C. Barnes Sr. MarketPlace Hall and the adjoining farmers market space at 16 S. Washington St. in downtown Ypsilanti.
The Michigan Flower Growers' Cooperative was started in the summer of 2017 by three co-founders who are all farmers from the Ann Arbor area: Alex Cacciari of Seeley Farm, Trilby Becker of Sunseed Farm, and Amanda Maurmann of Gnome Grown Flower Farm. They originally launched the co-op at at Passionflower, a studio florist shop owned by Susan McLeary at 2401 S. Industrial Highway in Ann Arbor, but Becker says they quickly outgrew that space.
"Passionflower was a wonderful opportunity for us … but it's also a space intended to be more of a showcase," Becker says. "It's a design studio, not a marketplace, and it lacked certain infrastructure that would have made it more convenient."
Becker says moving to the new space in Ypsilanti offers the co-op "plenty of room to grow" and provides a more convenient location for growers located in the Detroit metro suburbs.
"It's a good location, and I can see us staying there for a long time," Becker says. "Growing Hope is a nice host. We like the mission of the organization, and one of their staff is on our board. It's a good fit all around."
Since the area has already experienced the first frost of the year, Becker says the flower co-op closed earlier than planned, with the last market for 2019 on Oct. 16. However, the flower co-op will be back on Wednesday mornings starting in April 2020. A $65,000 grant received in 2018 from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will also allow the co-op to provide more educational opportunities for members and fund the purchase of a mobile cooler that will allow the co-op to take flowers to pop-up markets and other events throughout southeast Michigan.
Growing Hope opened the marketplace hall as a rental venue and incubator kitchen in 2018 and originally planned to use the former KeyBank drive-through building that sits on the lot as a welcome center.
However, Ryan Wallace, one of the founders of Cultivate, says it "didn't make sense to take up that prime piece of real estate for office space." So the coffeehouse moved its roastery into the building.
He says Cultivate already had a "great partnership" with Growing Hope, and the move is a natural one.
"They've been trying to figure out how to activate that farmers market space year-round, and we'd been talking about trying to move our roaster out of our current space," Wallace says.
In turn, moving roastery operations out of Cultivate's taproom at 307 N. River St. in Ypsi means that Cultivate now has more room in its main location for customers and employees.
Wallace says Cultivate staff are in the process of building out the former welcome center. Most of the utilities are in place, but they are "working on the aesthetic piece," Wallace says.
Cultivate plans to do a public launch of the new roastery space, including limited coffee service, in the spring of 2020. Cultivate staff are also contributing to the overall beautification of the farmers market space, starting this fall with the sidewalk out in front of the old Key Bank building. Wallace says the public should also expect to see more extensive beautification efforts around the MarketPlace Hall in the spring.
"We'll be investing a lot of time and energy into creating a beautiful space downtown," Wallace says.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roaster photos by Ryan Wallace. Flower photo courtesy of Trilby Becker.