Mack Chrisman knows a lot about coffee.
“I am going to get started on a Chemex,” says Chrisman, the barista and café manager at Fido Café, as he picks up an hourglass-shaped vessel, inserts a coffee filter, and starts to pour water into it. Then the lesson begins.
“There’s many different pour-overs on the market," he says. "Each one has a different design so each has a different experience.
"This is a cone style, so it allows for a really even extraction and allows for a very balanced interpretation; not a ton of body. Believe it or not, it’s an old design, originally patented in the U.S. in the 1940s. It’s not exactly the new hipster thing people think it is.”
Fido Café, which offers coffee, sandwiches and Sarkozy Bakery pastries among other items on its menu, opened Oct. 19 and is the newest addition to the Fido Motors building at 1415 Fulford St. The old foundry building, which its owners Krystal and Jeb Gast have dubbed Jericho Town, houses not only Fido Motors, which makes scooters, but the nonprofit Rootead's dance studio, Kaltone musical instrument company, The Kalamazoo Piano Co. and Yes Electric. In addition, the building has studio spaces occupied by a painter, a fiber artist, two ceramicists, a welder and a moped club.
The café and coffee, however, were always part of the plan, say the Gasts. The Gasts purchased the building in 2010 for $90,000 with the help of their business partner, Kent Bakke, CEO of the espresso machine company La Marzocco. Bakke met the Gasts in Seattle, where they then lived and where Jeb worked at a scooter shop. When the Gasts decided to start Fido Motors in Kalamazoo, Bakke offered to be a partner, says Krystal Gast.
The partnership came with a $13,500 La Marzocco Gb5 Espresso Machine, which now sits on the café bar. “The machine has just been here for the (Fido Motors) workshop employees’ personal use for so long, which is a little silly," says Krystal Gast. "We finally built a café around it.”
The café took more than six months to put together and features an Italian-influenced space, filled with natural light, clean design and bay windows that overlook the Fido Motors’ workshop so patrons can watch scooter makers at work.
Chrisman was in on the café’s design and concept and says he wanted the café to be comfortable, conversational and educational.
The oldest of seven kids, Chrisman grew up in Lawton loving to educate others. “At the grocery store as a kid, I would sneak off and spend time in the outdoor section at the fishing lures," says the 25-year-old Chrisman. "I would wait for other customers to come and I would recommend this or that lure for certain fishing. It’s kind of weird, but I have always liked helping people in that way.”
Chrisman learned his coffee-making craft in Nashville, Tennessee, and was greatly influenced by his time working at Roast Inc., a café and restaurant (now closed) with a mission to “educate food professionals and consumers on single-cup brew methods, and how quality coffee stands out from commodity coffee.”
Chrisman explains that when Roast Inc. customers would order their drinks they had the option to make the drinks themselves with the assistance of a skilled barista. While Chrisman will continue to make drinks for Fido Café customers for the foreseeable future, he loves the idea of the café being an educational, hands-on experience.
“So many people have the frustrating experience of drinking great coffee at a shop and then go home and use the same grounds and it’s awful," he says, "so this is a platform to teach people. In the four minutes we are waiting for this to brew, I can teach you how to make better coffee at home. It’s special to help folks achieve what they may not have made time to achieve on their own.”
Along with enjoying chances to teach customers about coffee, Chrisman also looks forward to engaging the community — he's planning to host a latte art competition among Kalamazoo baristas this spring.