A Mighty Good Change.
Though Mighty Good Coffee has been delighting Ann Arborites for more than a decade, founder David Myers’s relationship with java started brewing long before they ever opened their doors.
“My parents were sort of early adopters of coffee in the 70s. I remember visiting local restaurants with my dad asking if they had real decaf or Sanka. He only wanted real coffee, so they used to shop for whole beans at this old store in Ann Arbor. So, I just grew up with that kind of side-culture.” He says.
Despite those family ties, David didn’t initially follow the same path. Instead, he moved from his hometown of Ypsilanti to New York City and became a professional photographer. It was there he met his wife, Nic.
“Well funny enough, we met at a coffee shop in New York City. We just kept running into each other there and always struck up a conversation.” She says.
By that time, big city life and their careers were wearing on them both, so David made a fateful suggestion to Nic.
“I was ready to move on from New York, so we started looking at other places to live, and David said, ‘Well there's this great little city called Ann Arbor…’ I didn’t know much about it — except that the University of Michigan was there because a lot of New Yorkers went there for school — but we decided to give it a try on a wing and a prayer, and now we've been here for twenty-five years.”
Once they were back in Michigan, David stumbled on an opportunity to tap into his roots.
“I had started an online M.B.A. through the University of Massachusetts and needed to come up with a business venture as part of the curriculum. At the time, nobody was really roasting coffee in Ann Arbor, and I had all these memories and this family of coffee giants, so it seemed like a good option. Then a friend told me, ‘I know a part time coffee roaster who is looking to get out of the business.’”
That conversation led to David taking over an existing business called Amazing Beans, which, at the time, had roughly 400 subscription customers who he delivered to twice a week.
Since those early days, Mighty Good has grown to four retail locations and become an Ann Arbor staple. But many Detroit Lovers might be familiar with them too, as Mighty Good has made its way into several Detroit restaurants and retailers including Le Petit Zinc, Sprout House, Zerbo’s and more.
Indeed, it’s a list that goes on in both Detroit and Ann Arbor, but David points out one partnership transcends both communities.
“I've known Jackie Victor for a long time and have been going down to Avalon’s Willis location for ages. I've always paid attention to what she does and what they're doing. I knew she had this coffee bar at Avalon, and she knew what I did, but it wasn’t until they decided to revamp what they were doing with coffee in Detroit, that we worked together. In fact, I think I knew her for at least five years before we partnered up.”
Partnerships like this one not only help strengthen our regional economy and expand product offerings for consumers, they can also help build bridges that might encourage folks to venture out and explore nearby cities.
“I mean we’re personally doing things in Detroit we wouldn’t have in the past.” Says David. “There's just a lot of excitement. I think that excitement has been growing over the last five, six, seven years, but it's really reached a point where hanging out in the city is a cool thing to do now — and that certainly wasn't the case when we moved back to Michigan twenty-five years ago.”
Nic, who worked in the city when it was not nearly so far along, has seen the positive change as well.
“A lot of people we know are foodies, so they’re all going to find the latest restaurant or place to hang out in Detroit. There’s still a great art and culture scene too. So, I’m hearing a lot of good things about it now. I also think people are just so sick of the whole ‘Detroit was in decay and decline’ narrative. I don't hear that conversation much anymore. I hear all about the joy and excitement, especially from young people.”
Having both worked in Detroit for some time, they’ve always admired the scrappy, entrepreneurial spirit that defines it, and are happy to see the city blossoming while still maintaining that attitude.
“The entrepreneurial spirit is all about scrappiness — because that’s what it takes to figure something out for yourself — and there are a lot of scrappy, wonderful things going on in Detroit. I think that’s always been true, but the opportunities might not have connected because the city didn’t have as much energy as it does now. It's fun for us to be invested in that energy, and I think that's why we love Jackie and Avalon so much. Even after 20 years, they have this fresh mindset. Ideas are a dime-a-dozen. They’re cheap. It’s seeing an idea through its implementation that’s really exciting because that's really where the business starts.”
As new businesses continue to launch in Ann Arbor and Detroit, the Sims - Myers hope that the connection between the two cities will flourish even more.
“I think it would be great if there were more connections between Ann Arbor and Detroit… I think people just haven't thought about it for a long time, but they're really starting to think about it now.”