The Rapidian

The Bitter End provides coffee oasis for West Side

The Bitter End Coffeehouse on West Fulton Street serves over 100 varieties of flavored coffee beverages. The building's vintage feel derives from a rich history.
Inside the Bitter End Coffeehouse.

Inside the Bitter End Coffeehouse. /Sara Ransom

The Bitter End Coffeehouse

To find out more about the 24 hour coffeehouse visit their website or facebook page.

The 1920's inspired decor.

The 1920's inspired decor. /Sara Ransom

/Sara Ransom

The Bitter End Coffeehouse is a family-owned business that serves fair trade, craft roasted coffee made from organic beans on West Fulton. Owner John Sprite is a Grand Rapids native with a culinary background.

“Our coffee shop in a neighborhood like this is very community based,” Sprite says. “We’re part of people’s lives.” He says that The Bitter End has regular customers that will come in sometimes four to five times every day, calling the coffee shop their second home.

“It’s very much an oasis out of the office and out of the library,” Sprite says.

The Bitter End is among the few businesses in town that is open 24 hours a day, every day except Christmas. The coffeehouse attracts many people, especially students who need to study or write papers.

“The population grows and changes every semester,” he says. The Bitter End is three blocks away from Grand Valley State University's Pew Campus.

Sprite is proud to be from Grand Rapids and be an active part of the community.

“The city is growing. Every day it’s just constant upward movement,” says Sprite. “It’s really exciting to be in it.” 

Sprite says Grand Rapids is unique because of all the festivals and events that take place. He likes to be involved in the activities as much as possible.

“I want to invest my time in building the city up,” says Sprite.

The city is not the only thing that is growing; the drink menu is expanding too. “We try to cater to all flavors and all tastes,” he says. The coffeehouse has over 100 varieties of flavors available for sweet drinks. Choices range from lattes to smoothies to Italian sodas. Their most popular signature latte is the Spotted Owl. Another favorite drink is the French Kiss latte. Sprite describes their French Kiss latte as a “destination drink” where people will often travel from neighboring cities to try it. 

“I have a menu that is way too large and it keeps growing. Every month we have new specials and things to try out,” he says. In addition to coffee, the Bitter End serves Numi tea lattes, bubble tea and loose leaf teas.

Sprite is a lover of pure coffee and sweet coffee. He enjoys mixing together flavors that people would not normally think to mix together.

“You usually find either something glorious or just a happy mistake,” he says.

The Bitter End’s building has a rich history. About 110 years ago, the building was the first Kent State Bank. After the bank, the building was a hair salon where some of the employees would sleep after a day of work, during the Great Depression. 

The Sprite family wanted to start a coffee business in Grand Rapids and decided to purchase the building because of its proximity to GVSU's Pew Campus. They had no idea the building had such beautiful architecture because much of it had been covered up. Inside the basement paneling, the Sprite family discovered more treasures: original Grand Rapids Brewing bottles and an old calendar with pictures of pin-up girls, that hangs on the wall currently. After discovering the building's hidden beauty, Sprite’s family worked to restore the shop back to its original charm with ceramic tiles, tin ceiling and tall windows.The renovation took about 17 months before the building was restored back to its former beauty.  

The inside decor of the coffeehouse reflects the 1920’s Paris Jazz Age. The name draws inspiration from the Bitter End rock club in New York that has hosted artists such as Miles Davis and Joni Mitchell. The name also serves as a reference to the bitter end of a cup of coffee.

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