Greg Tongue travels the country repairing industrial gas burners for big industries. In all of his journeys, he always makes sure to check out the local coffeehouses.
Being into health and fitness, the one thing he’s always after is coffee with a splash of protein.
Mix that hope with his eager 21-year-old son’s desire to start a business and you have the new Biddle Avenue coffeehouse that’s creating a lot of buzz in Wyandotte.
opened Friday with little fanfare, but has since gotten a lot of people talking.
Paula Crowe was walking by the place Friday and peeked in to see what it was. She’s been back every day since.
“This place suits me just fine,” she said Monday night, while sipping coffee and working on her laptop. “The atmosphere is welcoming and the guys are great. We struck up a conversation on the first day and now we talk like we’ve known each other forever. … It’s just very comfortable here.
"I don’t know what touched these guys, but they’ve got it.”
The coffeehouse at 2958 Biddle (next to ) has an exposed brick wall, coved ceilings and a black rubber floor. Two fish tanks and artwork are displayed in enclosed cases outside, making it fun to stop and look before coming inside. A dog bowl full of water also is outside for those four-legged friends out for a stroll with their owners in downtown Wyandotte.
A 60-inch plasma TV hangs on the wall and a high-end sound system fills the place. A piano is available for anyone who knows how to play it. A large chalkboard is on the wall for customers to doodle on. Chess sets are out and ready for those skilled on the game.
High- and low-top tables fill the area around the granite bar. A barista (either Greg or his son, Tim) is behind the bar, ready to take your drink order or help create something you’re after that’s not on the menu.
“We can do customized coffees and French presses for people as they watch,” Greg Tongue said. “If they’ve had it somewhere else and can tell us about it, we’re happy to try to make it. “
Smoothies also are available, as are some prepackaged food, including brownies and espresso-soaked cinnamon walnuts. (Despite “bar” being in its name, alcohol is not served and there are no plans to add it.)
A bookcase helps to separate a back lounge area, filled with leather couches, artwork and magazines. The entire facility has free Wi-Fi access and seats about 40 people comfortably.
The coffee sold is from Zingerman’s, which is roasted in Ann Arbor. The tea is from , out of Trenton. Cider from Apple Charlie’s in New Boston also is available in a slushie form.
“We are trying to keep it as local as possible,” Tongue said. “There are a lot of good, local products out there.”
The hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, but so far, the Tongues–owner Greg and manager Tim–are the only ones enjoying the smells of freshly roasted coffee in the early mornings.
“We pick up in the afternoon and evening when people are out walking around Wyandotte,“ Tongue said. “Not many folks know we’re here. If I could get a nickel for everyone who walks by and looks like they want to walk in. I think it’s intimidating to some, being that we’re new and no one really knows what we are yet. Whenever I see someone walking by, I wave them in and tell them to come in and check it out. You don’t have to buy anything. Just see what we’re about. “
Tongue’s is only a few doors down and across the street from Wyandotte’s only other independently owned coffeehouse, .
“There are plenty of bars and plenty of ice cream places,” Tongue said. “But in coffeehouses, there aren’t many around. We felt we could fit a niche and possibly create a lot more interest in coffee throughout Downriver. … I’ve been trying forever to get protein into coffee and make it taste good. I think a coffee shop with a secondary market of health and fitness would be great. We want to promote an active lifestyle and get people off the sofas, even though we have a few sofas here.”
While the protein powder is available, customers aren’t forced to concentrate on the healthy drinks alone.
“We can add the protein if the person wants it, but we also have plenty of flavored syrups we can do, too,” Tongue said.
Since opening, he said, customers have ordered mostly lattés and cappuccinos. Caramel, vanilla and hazelnut have been the most popular flavorings.
The father-and-son team are the only employees as of now, but said they could be hiring in the near future. Pianists also are welcome to come in and play the piano for tips.
“We aren’t financially able to pay people right now, but if someone wants to play for tips, we welcome that,” Tongue said. “We will have a few acts scheduled, but it’s pretty impromptu right now.”
That worked out well for Shaana Way of the Downriver-based indie folk rock band The Dandelion Brigade. Way played at the coffeehouse on Sunday and said she had a blast and enjoyed everyone’s “friendly, easy-going attitude.”
“I came in to explore the new establishment and they were extremely welcoming,” she said. “The place has already made it clear to me that it has lots of potential and I can't wait to perform there again.”
Having done little marketing outside of Facebook, Tongue said, his business is getting a lot of attention through word-of-mouth.
“Everyone who comes through the door is someone who stumbled on it or heard about it from someone they know,” he said.
said he’s stopped in “a few times” over the last five days. A personal trainer by trade, Navin said he likes the health aspect that’s been incorporated.
“I think it's a great addition to Wyandotte and the atmosphere is really nice,” he said. “You wouldn't think that the place looks like what it does on the inside as you're walking by, but the fish tanks in the windows definitely pull in your attention. … I think this is going to be a great place for people to go to, have a nice cup of Joe and grab a bit of education on health-related topics.”