The owners of longstanding coffee shop Urban Bean Co. in downtown Detroit have reinvented the location as Spkrbox, a European nightclub-like coffee and cocktail spot with plans to keep the speakers knocking all night and day.
With its mezzanine-level DJ booth fully refurbished and wired into an upgraded sound system for nonstop music upstairs and down, the shop that officially reopens today will take particular pride in offering a third space for third-shift workers — people whose after-work happy hour may come with the sunrise.
“Whether they’re nurses or police officers or casino workers, there’s a lot of people that are ‘third shift’ people that aren’t accommodated in what I think is an appropriate way,” Spkrbox Co-Owner Thomas Phillips told Daily Coffee News. “There are those people that just put in 12 hours and got off at six in the morning, and I want to be here for them.”
Hours for the shop will be 7 a.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week. Puff pastry hand pies that Philips likes to call “adult hot pockets” will be available fresh daily, stuffed with sweet and savory fillings appropriate for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert.
“I would actually be open earlier if I was legally allowed to,” said Phillips. “I want to accommodate those people because I know how hard they work. They need a place to go.”
Bringing the shop colorfully into a new era, Phillips said he and co-owners Josh Greenwood and Tony Sacco aimed to leave midcentury modern bones of the 60-year-old building in tact, while partnering with local metal workers and woodworkers to strip, refinish, refurbish or replace every surface, fixture and detail.
The facade of the corner location that has been replaced with tall floor-to-ceiling glass panes that brighten the location and make it seem taller.
Inside, the coffee bar was treated to a sleek new 2-group undercounter Modbar espresso system paired with Mazzer grinders, while a Bunn grinder preps beans for a Fetco batch brewer. Two taps are in place to dispense still and nitro cold brew.
Oxford, Michigan-based White Pine Coffee, the roasted coffee supplier for Urban Bean Co., will continue to provide the beans for Spkrbox, where cocktails will also thoroughly incorporate coffee. Offerings will include: the Homerton, a classic Manhattan made with a coffee reduction; coffee-infused Vieux Carré; coffee-centered Negronis; Boulevardiers; and more.
“What I wanted to do, to emphasize the coffee program, was to keep our cocktail list all coffee-oriented,” said Phillips. “Whether it’s espresso, nitro, or cold brew or doing reductions, we’re having a ton of fun playing with different ways to accentuate cocktails with coffee.”
The shop features seating for 40 people on the main level and another 26 seats upstairs. Another 350 square feet of space on the third level of is reserved for private events, and designs are underway for a covered, year-round outdoor patio.
Like Urban Bean before it, Spkrbox plans to also remain a social hub for artists and fans on the city’s robust techno, electronica and hip-hop scenes. The shop will continue to sell tickets for local events while hosting local and touring DJs in its booth to keep the corner thumping day and night.
“I think what will separate us is to be loud,” said Phillips. “Even in the morning, I want to be loud; 7 a.m. til 2 a.m., we’re going to be loud. It sounds crazy, but we just want to do it.”
Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.