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Posted on Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 11:52 a.m.

Sweetwaters expands: Ann Arbor-based coffee shop to open first Ypsilanti store

By Lizzy Alfs


Sweetwaters general manager Laurie Vaquera inside the coffee shop's East Washington Street store.

Melanie Maxwell |

A 20-year-old local coffee shop plans to expand beyond its Ann Arbor roots when it opens its first Ypsilanti location in January.

The owners of Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea signed a lease last week to open in the recently renovated building at 729-735 W. Cross St., across from Eastern Michigan University’s campus.

The shop's general manager, Laurie Vaquera, announced the news to a group of Ann Arbor business owners during a downtown tour Thursday morning.

“We’ve done the University of Michigan thing, so we wanted to try out a different place,” explained Vaquera. “I think Eastern is going to offer its own unique set of students and we’ll be right across the street from them.”

Founded in 1993 by Wei and Lisa Bee, Sweetwaters has three locations in Ann Arbor: one on East Washington Street downtown, one in Kerrytown and one on Plymouth Road. The Kerrytown and Plymouth Road stores are franchises.

Vaquera, who called the Cross Street building “very modern,” said Sweetwaters should be a perfect fit for the space.


The building at 729-735 Cross St., pictured in April, where Sweetwaters plans to open a location in January.

Tom Perkins |

Ann Arbor’s O’Neal Construction renovated the building after purchasing it in 2011.

First floor retail tenants include a Subway sandwich shop and Ypsilanti T-shirt Co. shop. Once Sweetwaters opens, there will be one retail space remaining. It is listed for lease with Bob Andrus of Michigan Commercial Realty for an annual $25 per square foot. The building has apartments on the second floor.

“I think, in that area, there are not a bunch of Starbucks, Caribous. We’ll be next to a Subway and there’s a T-shirt shop, I think we’re the next obvious thing,” Vaquera said. “You can come right in and get your coffee, and a lot of kids like to do their studying here. We offer free Wi-Fi and things like that.”

Vaquera will oversee the corporately owned Ypsilanti shop, which she hopes to open at the end of January. She plans to hire at least eight people.

“This has been in the works, and we’ve just been thinking about it. I think we had some feelers out…we’re very excited about it,” she said.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at


Chase Ingersoll

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:08 p.m.

and, my 7 year old will love Sweetwaters. Apologies to McDonalds, but I will be able to take her and her smoothie for a walk on the campus.

Chase Ingersoll

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:06 p.m.

Note the new facade on the liquor store, landscaping on the EMU side, and no longer a building that was posted for demolition which languished for the better part of a decade. Cross street has definitely turned a corner when you get developers and business people willing to risk millions of private dollars. Please use this forum to commend rather than snipe them. .


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 9:31 p.m.

Good luck to them with the new location. I love Sweetwaters. I think they have the best coffee drinks in town!


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 8:15 p.m.

AWESOME!! Welcome to Ypsi!!

Mary Ann Barbary

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

Will there be a fairy door? There's quite a few fairies living in Normal Park trees that probably could use a morning coffee or tea...


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.

Well, urban-fairies seem to like coffee and Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea, so I would not be overly surprised. Though fairy-time works differently than human-time.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.

We wish you would do more of the UM thing; i.e. put a store right on campus! Main Street is not a convenient jaunt for your morning cup of coffee from central campus.... I know there is a glut of coffee shops on state street, but nowhere to get Thai Iced Tea. :(


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

Good luck, I like sweetwaters!


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of the Ugly Mug a few blocks away, if anything. I guess one can not have too many coffee/tea/hot chocolate hangouts.

Steven Taylor

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:11 a.m.

Kyle, you miss out on the fact that a local coffeehouse B-24's sits directly across from EMU's business school on Michigan Ave in downtown Ypsi.

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 8:30 p.m.

Although Ugly Mug and Sweetwaters will be located just down the street from each other they do have very different approaches to their business. Just like how Lab, Comet, Startbucks, Biggby, and Espresso Royal all survive within a block of each other here in downtown Ann Arbor I believe Sweetwaters and Ugly Mug will be able to complement each other's offerings. The only coffee offerings on the EMU campus at this time is a Starbucks and a handful of university run cafes, so I would expect there is be plenty of student demand to go around for both.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 7:47 p.m.

Sweetwaters has a much more welcoming aura than the Ugly Mug. I'm happy it's coming to Ypsi!!!


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 6:55 p.m.

I don't think the Ugly Mug will be affected much. For example, not many places roast beans as well as the folks at the Ugly Mug. No one does espresso like they do. Apples and oranges in many ways. But don't get me wrong, I love Sweetwaters and have been a patron since it opened on Washington St. I'm glad they are opening a shop in Ypsi. Their French Vietnamese Au Lait is out of this world! I totally agree about not having too many coffee hangouts in one's backyard!


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 6:10 p.m.

yay! As a Cross Street business owner for past 10 years, this is the most Ive ever seen of active businesses on this strip of Cross Street! Excellent news.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 5:41 p.m.

Well, that's pretty dang cool!


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 5:38 p.m.

I always loved having Joan serve me a cup of coffee. Hopefully there will be some 15 minute parking spots so people can run in and get a coffee on the morning commute. Oh, and there also used to be a Sweetwaters on main Street in Royal Oak. It closed about 4-5 years ago.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

Yes Kyle , it is similar in that they both are coffee shops;) one could say they are both independents, but with Sweetwaters franchising that would be an inaccurate description.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 8:19 p.m.

there also used to be one in Saline that closed about the same's now known as My Favorite Cafe on S. Ann Arbor Street..

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 6:23 p.m.

Correct TreeTown, it is now Bean and Leaf, a very similar establishment.

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

Interesting, I did not know that about Royal Oak.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 5:38 p.m.



Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 5:33 p.m.

This is great news! I think this will be a wonderful addition to the EMU/Ypsilanti community.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 5:18 p.m.

Sounds wonderful! Welcome to Cross Street!