Often, the best ideas are birthed from consumers seeking out a space, product, service, or combination of the three that aren’t currently available – then digging into that desire and creating something tangible from it.
Though they hadn’t worked out the details of exactly what they would do to create the concept they were longing for, two local couples started dreaming about a space several years ago that incorporated relational connection shared with a unique and amazing product centered around something they loved – tea.
This fall, the two-couple team comprised of Patrick and Shannon McElgunn, and Joe and Erin Rivard, is polishing off the final details for Grove Tea Lounge, Midland’s first tea-centric cafe on track to open this winter.
Joe Rivard, Erin and Pat enjoying a cup of tea while planning the final touches of Grove Tea Lounge.
Tea is the primary menu offering, and the mission through which it will be served runs much deeper for the founders than the uniqueness of the product itself.
Shannon commented on the questions they asked themselves at the origin of their idea, “We thought to ourselves, What kind of space do we want to go to in Midland? What kind of things and values do we want to have? We started dreaming and it kept evolving along with our strong passion for tea.”
Progress on the counter from October 2018.
At the time, destinations like The Loch and Live Oak Coffeehouse didn’t exist yet. There was also an even greater need for public gathering spaces in the community. As cafes and coffee shops began to pop up in various neighborhoods, the couples took their time crafting what they would offer with their new concept. Looking through the lens of why they wanted to create this space in the first place, the team set out to create a meaningful gathering spot that creates community over an awesome product.
Patrick is a consultant for the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Michigan. Commenting on narrowing down a focal point he says, “I have six million ideas on a daily basis. Working at the SBDC has allowed me to talk about ideas all the time.”
Progress on tile work from October 2018.
“From a partnership perspective, the four of us were all training for a 5k race and we’d go for a run once per week together,” says Patrick. “So we spent a good amount of time talking about options and our ideas started to mold together from there.”
Erin Rivard is a graphic designer by trade, working at Central Michigan University by day, but she always knew she wanted to own her own business, and pursued an MBA to prepare her for this project.
A little Grove Tea Lounge fan next to the cafe's cart.
“There were only a couple of places in the area when this idea formed for us. Over the last couple of years more places have popped up, and we enjoy visiting the new cafes and community hubs. We love what they have done for the community,” says Erin.
“I think the two main things that will set us apart from other shops is that our main focus is tea, and our location is unique. One of the things we loved about our building, other than the look and design, is the setting,” says Erin.
A before shot of the building prior to the inside demolition work.
Remodeling what was previously a Chemical Bank branch, the lounge is located within walking distance to a number of neighborhoods. “We’re right across from Dow's corporate complex, down the street from the Midland High School and there are a couple churches nearby,” says Erin. “We really feel like we’re in the middle of the community! We truly hope our space will be a gathering place for everyone, and people will stop in just to say hello and grab a tea or coffee.”
You can see the transformation of the building take shape in this time lapse video from Grove Tea Lounge on the first day of demolition here.
A before shot of the lobby prior to demolition work.
The team is driven to have impact locally and globally through their food and beverage selection. “For us, we are sourcing our tea from ethical farmers around the world,” says Patrick. “Locally, we want to have a great impact by offering options for everyone: healthy options, indulgent options, gluten free items, vegan, so we’re trying to accommodate all dietary needs.”
Additionally, their menu will feature bubble teas and a large variety of loose-leaf tea options that customers can have hot, iced or brewed with milk as lattes. All of the tea is responsibly sourced and organic where possible, as many small tea farmers do not have the resources to certify officially as an organic product.
Patrick McElgunn working out some of the final construction needs.
While coffee isn’t their main focus, Grove will be including a few quality roasts for patrons to enjoy, notably sourced from Higher Grounds in Traverse City. Food offerings will consist of breakfast and lunch items as well as on-the-go options. Grove plans to switch out soups, salads and sandwiches seasonally to keep options fresh, and for convenience and customers on the go, they will also have a drive-thru.
The equipment for tea is second to none. Grove Tea Lounge will have two of Alpha Dominche’s MOD2 Steampunk systems, powerful machines known for their brewing capability and theatrics.
“We like to tell people that the Steampunks are where art and science collide,” says Patrick. “There is a ton of science behind these machines and it is a beautiful and mesmerizing process. The equipment has really helped us bring the last piece of Grove Tea Lounge together with the building and our mission to be the perfect representation for Midland – a fantastic concentration of science, history and art.”
Patrick McElgunn outside Grove Tea Lounge.
A diverse perspective within the team is evident and has added value to the lounge, as the team has a wide variety of experience between the four founders. Aside from Erin’s graphic design business and Patrick and Shannon’s health coaching business, Joe Rivard was in a band that opened for various artists that took him on tour all over the U.S. He gained a lot of experience networking with bands, media, studios and fans that gave him knowledge and a perspective different than most. The demand of that lifestyle gave him passion, drive and dedication to continually be moving forward.
Since leaving the band, he has turned that focus towards more personal and professional goals, and now uses that passion, drive and dedication to move us forward with the future of the lounge. Joe is also an art director, and his knowledge and experience with branding for companies has proven to be valuable for the lounge.
Grove Tea Lounge will feature coffee, tea and food for breakfast and lunch when they open this winter.
“His attention to detail really drives us to put our best foot forward and ensure we are striving to give our customers the best space and products possible,” says Erin.
Those skills came in handy with the design of the building, which required a total overhaul of the interior. With great, strong bones, the business has so much to work with – but first they needed a blank canvas. The original Chemical Bank structure was so specific to the operations of a bank, it had to be torn down nearly to studs.
Grove Tea Lounge will use several pieces of history from the bank in the design.
The building will keep its historic Mid-Century Modern lines though. Originally designed by Jackson Hallett under Alden B. Dow’s architecture firm, the team wanted to keep as much of the historic design as possible, while still blending into their vision. The team has quite a few plans in place to weave in the banks history, including making good use of the safety deposit boxes and several other touches guests will have to keep an eye out for.
The original site plan and drawings for the building, prepared by Jackson Hallet.
“That was the coolest aspect we uncovered about the space and we are proud to have the bank’s history on display,” says Erin.
This fall, the longings of four conscious consumers will be the benefit of tri-city communities. Grove Tea Lounge will reinvent a recognizable Midland space, while providing a diverse menu and fostering relationships.
Grove Tea Lounge, soon to open at 2405 Abbott Road in Midland.
To stay in touch with their progress and learn their grand opening date, follow them on Facebook, Instagram (@grovetealounge) and Twitter.