Michigan’s Best Local Eats: Caffè Casa has been serving something different in Kalamazoo for 30 years

KALAMAZOO, MI — Casa means house in Spanish.

So it’s no surprise that when you set foot in Caffe Casa, located at 128 S. Kalamazoo Mall, you feel like you’re in someone’s home.

A place where everyone is welcome, John and Kathy Beebe have been running their quirky, independent coffee shop and eatery since late 1992 and have been serving the public for three full decades now, since they were both in their twenties.

It hasn’t always been easy and the couple has overcome multiple challenges over the years, from the birth and growth of coffee shop chains in the area, along with local competitors, to a serious motorcycle accident experienced by John Beebe in 2017, to the COVID-19 pandemic .

But through it all, “the store,” as they’ve affectionately called it for three decades, has endured.

“I feel like what we made is a snowflake and you couldn’t try to recreate it,” Kathy Beebe told MLive/The Kalamazoo Gazette. “There is something magical about this place and it is experienced by so many people.

“For example, you could talk about someone in a loving way and say you haven’t seen them in so long, and that person will literally come across the room. There are countless examples of that. It happens so often it’s bizarre.”

The couple signed their first lease with Peregrine Realty in 1992, doing everything from leveling and tiling the floor to creating what Kathy Beebe calls a “very eclectic atmosphere, filled with art and plants, and creations from so many different, talented people”. but all designed by her and her husband.

A plant wall of vintage grow lights showcases plants that have grown with the company from day one, so customers and staff can be surrounded by life and light in a break and, as Kathy Beebe says, “leave feeling better, with a positive experience.” ” in your pocket.”

“I try to curb the clutter and keep it clean and open to satisfy minimalists, but John and I are both children of collectors,” she said, referring to the plants and the walls filled with art from the local artist Jerry Fry. as well as pieces from other local artisans and custom furniture.

While their parents and grandparents collected everything from antique firearms to model trains, wicker baskets and hats, or in the case of Kathy Beebe’s mother, “all things Jesus,” Kathy said she’s all about collecting things that serve a purpose. serve, like the plants, but also stories, people and experiences.

During the pandemic, she said, it was the stories and conversations she shared with people who kept the store running when they were only available for takeout.

“I sold social work,” she said. “People came in and I wasn’t allowed to let them stay, but there was no restriction on how long it took them to order.

“I let them line up and we talked until the next person came in behind them. And then I asked them what I could do for them, but it was clear that people needed someone to talk to, including myself. Being here in front of people allowed me to see purpose.

Moving past the pandemic, one of the biggest challenges for Caffe Casa, Beebe said, was so many people buying fancy coffee and espresso machines at home and becoming experts themselves.

“Lunch got us back on track,” she said. “Almost everyone who came in was getting lunch.”

The store’s lunch menu has not only helped them survive the pandemic, but has also helped them survive the competition over the years, she said.

“It’s not the largest lunch menu in the world, but it’s a big part of my business and most coffee shops, not all, don’t even get into that area,” Beebe said. “The fact that our menu is small is all freshly made to order. People are special and that allows us to make things the way they want.”

The croissants and bagels used for the sandwiches in the shop, as well as the pastries, are all baked in house by Kathy Beebe, who also makes fresh soup daily, and John Beebe makes whatever goes on the bagels.

In addition to the lunch menu, the couple keeps things consistent with their coffee and has been proudly serving Lansing’s Paramount Coffee since the day they opened.

“We found it when we lived there,” she said. “We were on a bike ride and smelled this incredible coffee and we followed our nose and found Paramount Coffee.

“They custom blended and roasted our coffee 30 years ago, to our specifications, and there’s no other place in town that has that espresso.”

In addition to coffee, Caffe Casa offers a unique selection of loose teas, Italian and French soft drinks, and other beverages such as vegan power lattes and gingerbread lattes. There are no bubble teas or pour overs or matcha teas, but that’s part of the shop’s charm.

“If you’re willing to experience something different, come on in, because that’s what this is,” Beebe said.

Caffe Casa is open Monday through Wednesday from 7:30 AM to 3:00 PM, Thursday through Friday from 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM, and Saturday from 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM. For more information, call 269-385-1026 or visit www.caffecasa.net.

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