A stint in California at the tender age of 21 led to a robust online business, and three brick and mortar locations for a popular Bay City coffee shop. Populace Coffee has expanded, grown, and changed over the past ten years, and owners Justis and Andrew Heppner couldn’t be prouder.
“My husband and I started Populace Coffee, the roasting side of the business, ten years ago,” Justis said. “We opened up a little roaster here in Bay City and it just kind of expanded. Then, three years ago is when we launched our first flagship cafe. We wanted to offer something that we felt was missing a little bit in our community.”
With the addition of their first cafe, the couple began to offer a variety of homemade baked goods, for their guests to enjoy. One item that has become incredibly popular are their classic boiled and baked bagels, that come in 6 flavors every day.
Bagels from Populace Coffee are our pick for Sweet Treat of the Week, a series highlighting people and products from around Michigan who are using Pioneer Sugar in their creations.
Check out our interview with Justis below, where we talk the history of Populace Coffee, and what makes these bagels so good.
The Heppner’s moved out to California when they were just 21, and Andrew started working at Intelligentsia Coffee, which spurred his love of coffee. The couple, who are Bay City natives, decided to move back, and start a coffee roasting business, that was focused on mail order.
That was ten years ago, when they only were roasting coffee, packaging and shipping. At the time, the business model was pretty unique to the area. “Our coffees are ethically sourced and roasted fresh,” Andrew said. “Here in Bay City, we are the only ones doing that locally.”
Three years ago, the couple decided to open their first brick and mortar location, located, of course, in downtown Bay City.
“With us roasting locally, and in the state of Michigan, we wanted to make sure our community that we lived in also had our coffee,” said Justis. “So a cafe made sense. But we knew we needed to offer a little bit more that came with it, and so bagels were our option. That was something that we felt was missing from our community. So we make everything from scratch, daily, and its fresh baked in-house.”
Populace Coffee has expanded, and now has locations in Petoskey, where you can also get the house made bagels, and in Detroit, in the lobby of The Siren Hotel.
“We have several partners in Detroit and have a love for the city and it’s history,” Andrew said. “We chose Northern Michigan for the same reasons. We love the natural beauty in Petoskey and wanted to be part of the culture up there.”
There are 5 regular flavors of bagels available every day at Populace in Bay City, and one rotating flavor that is the Bagel Of The Week (BOTW), which they announce on Monday. Bagel flavors that you’ll be able to find every day are Plain, Cinnamon Golden Raisin, Rosemary Sea Salt, Everything, and Aged Parmesan. All the bagels are vegan, except that parmesan one, and sometimes the BOTW. Justis is a big fan of the Everything bagel, and if the BOTW happens to be Potato Bacon, she highly recommends. “We get a lot of requests for that one,” she said.
One thing that sets them apart is that they adhere to the classic boil and bake technique for bagels. Now, there are plenty of variables that go into making a perfect bagel, from the type of flour, to the PH balance of the water, to the heat of the oven. Instead of trying to replicate a New York City bagel or a Montreal style bagel, how about you embrace what is local, and get all in on a Bay City bagel from Populace Coffee.
810 Saginaw St
Bay City, MI 48708
207 Howard St.
Petoskey, MI 49770
1509 Broadway St #2114
Detroit, MI 48226
You can order Populace Coffee online here.
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