Brewed Awakenings

Brewed Awakenings has been serving coffee and more to Grand Rapids residents and visitors for 20 years. The business started as a coffee cart and has grown to the downtown landmark it is today. Pictured, from left: Coworker Nevada Jager, owner Joan Foster, and coworker Glenda Best.

The Grand Rapids community is one that appreciates good friends, good times, and a good cup of coffee. That’s why it’s no wonder there is an amazing local coffee shop downtown: Brewed Awakenings. Brewed offers excellent coffee, homemade gelato, locally-grown treats and entrees, live music, and a relaxing, warm atmosphere. This summer, Brewed Awakenings is celebrating 20 years of business. Brewed Awakenings has an interesting history, and has always focused on serving the community sustainably.

Brewed Awakenings not only serves great drinks, but meals that are made from locally grown ingredients. The coffee shop prides itself in buying organic foods, and serving an array of vegetarian and vegan options. This is very important to Joan Foster, the founder and owner of Brewed Awakenings.

“The only way I can make a difference is as a consumer,” said Foster. “It’s important to support bigger ecosystems than just Grand Rapids.”

Brewed Awakenings came from humble beginnings. It all started when Foster opened a small coffee cart in front of the local co-op in 1996. Not only did she earn a degree in horticulture, but she was passionate about cooking. Along with coffee, she would cook up new things with sustainable ingredients. She said there would be different things to eat everyday, just like at home with her kids.

“The food part started because I like to eat good food,” she said.

While Foster was at the co-op, she learned about how food could bring people together. She laughed as she told of one customer that came to the co-op every day on his lunch break from Blandin Paper Company. He told her that eating her food at the co-op felt like going home for lunch, and “just eating what’s on the table.” That resonated with her. Foster realized the impact she was having on the community by creating new things every day.

During that time at the co-op, her dream of serving quality food and drinks to Grand Rapids evolved. She now wanted to create a space where people can enjoy the products together.

“I had a dream of creating a community gathering place,” said Foster.

After the co-op dissolved in the late 1990s, Foster moved her business to a space in the MacRostie Art Center. There, she developed true recipes that she would prepare on a regular basis. Soon, the business grew too large for the limited space in the local art gallery. In 2006, Brewed Awakenings opened in its downtown location.

The space helped Foster and her crew grow the business more than ever before. Now, 10 years after moving there, Brewed Awakenings is enjoying great business from great community members.

Brewed Awakenings’ location in downtown Grand Rapids has a calming and cozy atmosphere. Customers can sit by the window and watch the cars go by, or sit down at a table and catch up with friends. Whether you are socializing, getting some work done, or simply grabbing a great drink or meal, Brewed, as it’s known among locals, is a place to wind down.

Foster’s dream of creating a community space has become a reality. Brewed Awakenings has not only become a gathering place; it is also a place for local art to be showcased.

Poetry readings and live music are happening all the time at the coffee shop. For example, local guitarist Sam Miltich was scheduled to perform Friday, July 1, in conjunction with First Friday. Foster said she is grateful for artists like Miltich performing at Brewed, and keeping their focus on the community.

“We’ve had a lot of fun with live music,” said Foster, smiling.

Foster also does something that she calls “renting the wall.” For $25, a local artist can rent the wall space in Brewed Awakenings to showcase their pieces. Foster lets them sell their pieces without charging commission. She just wants to create a space where local talent can flourish.

Foster remembers one particularly wild moment in Brewed’s history. When there was construction being done on Highway 2 in town, the street was torn up in front of Brewed’s downtown location, right up to the front door. The parking lot also had to be closed. Foster laughs as she remembers her customers climbing over construction barricades to get into the coffee shop.

“They’re so loyal,” she said gratefully.

One new thing coming up for Brewed in the future? Foster is planning on purchasing a deli-style display refrigerator, so meals can be prepared throughout the day and kept ready for sale. She’s hoping this will cut down on waiting times for customers. As one can tell from Brewed’s history, customer satisfaction is something she really cares about.

Foster expressed her sincere thanks to the community for the support Brewed has received over the last 20 years.


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