Flint, MI—For nearly two years, the mirrored glass door at the corner of Grand Traverse Street and West 1st Avenue—the main entrance to Good Beans Café, Flint’s beloved Carriage Town coffeehouse—has remained locked.
“We closed at four o’clock,” recalled Ken Van Wagoner, Good Beans’ owner, from behind the space’s stately wooden bar. “We normally closed at nine, but we closed at four o’clock that day.”
That day was March 13th, 2020.
Former President Donald Trump had issued a national emergency proclamation regarding the “novel coronavirus outbreak.” At the time, less than 1,700 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in the United States, but uncertainty about the virus was mounting across the country.
“There was a lot going on,” Van Wagoner said, looking around at paintings, prints, and mixed-media artwork—much of it given to him by artists that exhibited at Good Beans during its over 20-year history—on almost every wall.
But now, more than 79 million U.S. COVID-19 cases and nearly two years to the day later, Van Wagoner is finally ready to re-open his Carriage Town coffeehouse.
“We’re opening Monday the 14th,” the cafe owner said. He smiled under a waxed, grey mustache, itself a product of the pandemic. “All indications lead me to believe that we will be able to do that.”
As he went about making a classic latte with freshly grated cinnamon—”It really makes a difference,” Van Wagoner promised—he explained why he put off opening for so long.
“I was in retirement training,” Van Wagoner said matter-of-factly. He said he’d thought about coming back a few times, but between spikes in coronavirus cases and his “training,” finding the motivation was difficult.
“I realized I worked a lot of hours, and I don’t want to work that many hours anymore,” he said, patting the side of the cinnamon grinder, the spicy scent wafting upward.
So although Good Beans Café will be back on Monday, March 14, 2022, it will be back with some changes.
Van Wagoner plans to operate the coffeehouse with “boutique hours”: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Instead of his menu’s normal muffins and bagels, he will only be offering a limited number of cannoli each day.
“And when they’re gone, they’re gone,” he said.
Van Wagoner also noted that although he loved playing host to local events prior to the pandemic, The Anteroom—the café’s event space—has since been rented to Rootless Coffee Co. for its roastery.
“So using that space for (events) is not available anymore,” he said over the whirr of an espresso machine.
Despite the paring down of hours and offerings, no Good Beans regular had a negative thing to say about Van Wagoner’s reopening decisions, save one.
“We just want him to open already!” Patty Warner said with a laugh.
Warner has been frequenting Good Beans since it opened in 2000. She joked that her and many of the cafe’s other regulars considered “staging a coup” over the summer, missing coffee drinks with imported Italian beans and the community atmosphere Van Wagoner is known for fostering.
“Ken makes that place,” Warner said.
She has been dropping by Good Beans periodically to offer her help with reopening projects, which the ever-hospitable Van Wagoner won’t accept. Warner understands her friend wants to do everything on his own time, but she said she just misses the atmosphere he had fostered over the decades on his Carriage Town corner.
“His whole thing is ‘everyone’s welcome here,'” she said. She talked about Good Beans’ early days as a safe space for the LGBTQ community, about an unhoused man who used to stop in now and then, and about meeting a local musician who had patiently given her guitar lessons for a little while.
“I was no good, though,” she said, smiling.
Van Wagoner said he has received countless offers of support in the past few weeks, ever since making a quiet announcement that he’d host a ‘soft open’ in mid-March. He said he is “humbled” by how many of his former guests have stopped by to help or encourage him over his reopening finish line.
“Or,” he smiled, the upturned edges of his mustache shaking slightly at the movement, “they’re all just (caffeine) addicts.”
Good Beans Café, located at 328 N. Grand Traverse St., will reopen on Monday, March 14, 2022 at 10 a.m. Warner, café regular turned self-appointed spokesperson for Van Wagoner, said guests should “expect a line out the door.”