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Ponder Coffee Company to open second location close to campus

A new, second location for a coffee shop known for its waffles, sandwiches and relaxing environment will be opening this fall next to campus.

Aaron and Christie Cromar, owners of Ponder Coffee Company located at 110 E. Broadway St., are opening a second location in the building that used to house The Dreamer Coffee Shop at 1027 S. Franklin St.

The couple, who are Central Michigan University alumni, were discussing the idea of an additional location for a long time, particularly one close to campus. When Dreamer and Kaya Coffee House both closed, the Cromars decided the time was right.  

"As people who went to Central, and frequented the coffee shops close to campus, we feel it's really important to have a local place for students, staff and faculty to go," Christie Cromar said. "It's kind of sad that there's not anything down there right now."

Although the downtown location has a lot of customers, Cromar said it doesn't really cater to students because they don't offer late or extended hours. It also has a very "traditional" coffee menu. Cromar said their new location will be geared more towards students' lifestyles and tastes, while still being "local friendly." The hours will be much longer and it will be open seven days a week, unlike their downtown location, which is closed on Mondays.

The new location will also feature a new drink menu. Cromar said she and her husband want to create a menu that still stays true to the traditional coffee the couple loves, but is a little more "fun" and in tune with what college students may wan

The Dreamer's former location has been repainted and the interior is still being worked on in preparation for the new store.

"If you come in and you want caffeine but really you don't want it to taste like coffee, that's fine," Cromar said, laughing. "We're going to figure out how to make something that is going to work for you, because in the end a cafe is far more about the experience you have when you go in."

The downtown location's tasty waffles and sandwiches will be included in the new location's menu, among new options. Cromar said they plan to offer vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options in an effort to cater to "as many lifestyles as possible."

The interior design of the new shop will still be branded as Ponder Coffee and will have a similar feel to its sister location, but they are changing things up. Cromar said it will be "clean and modern with a warm feeling." The couple is leasing the building but did buy all of the equipment left behind by the owner of The Dreamer, such as the espresso machine.

Right now, the Cromars plan to have the new store open and ready for students by the time they return to campus. If all does not go to plan, they predict opening in early September at the latest. 

Before the couple opened the downtown location in 2015, Aaron worked full-time as a social worker and Christie stayed at home with their children, now eight and 10. However, they have always been coffee enthusiasts. 

They roasted coffee out of their home and sold it at the Midland Farmer's Market for two years. After getting a lot of positive feedback their second year at the farmer's market, they explored the idea of opening a permanent location. Eventually they found the building their downtown location is in, which they worked on for six months before opening in November of 2015.  

The inside of the new store will look somewhat similar to the original Ponder, located at 110 E. Broadway St.

"It wasn't where we were headed when we started. It was a hobby, just something we enjoyed doing," Cromar said.

Business was slow at first because they opened in the winter and had no budget for marketing and advertising. Aaron was still working full time and they had very limited hours. 

In 2016, sales at the shop became strong enough for Aaron to quit his day job. They slowly started extending hours and hiring a couple of employees to help out. After their first year they introduced a food menu of waffles and sandwiches. Cromar said they started making waffles because no other coffee shop in town was offering them, and they're a pretty popular item.

"We try to be really simple but really, really good," Cromar said.

For more information about Ponder Coffee Company, visit their website.