The Rapidian

Urban coffee bar fosters appreciation of local, hand brewed coffee

Coffee enthusiast, barista and owner Kyle Ripley of Clique Coffee Bar explains the independent, family run coffee shop.
Underwriting support from:

/Brittany Beezhold

/Brittany Beezhold

/Brittany Beezhold

Through coffee beans, Hario V60 pour-overs and shots of espresso, Clique Coffee Bar (1600 East Beltline NE) is creating a brand honoring the roots and traditions of coffee within an upscale urban space on the northeast side of town.

“We [bring] amazing coffee to Grand Rapids all wrapped in an urban, upscale, technologically savvy and accessibly location. That is the Clique brand,” says Kyle Ripley, co-owner of Clique.

The coffee bar is an independent, locally owned and family run business. Ripley partnered with his father, Steve Ripley, to open the business on April 16, 2012.   

“[My brother] Chris and I grew up in Grand Rapids. This is my hometown. We were the original baristas [at Clique]. We absolutely love doing this business. It’s really cool to work with my brother and my cousin Ben, who also was with us from early on,” says Ripley.

“Grand Rapids is an awesome place to be part of the small business world. It’s cool to claim it as our hometown [and] to really be a part of the community like we are now. We definitely have a lot of pride for the Grand Rapids area and Michigan overall,” said Ripley.

As a family business, Clique incorporates more than just serving coffee to customers into their business practice.
“We are two-fold in the way we approach business –an in front of the counter goal and a behind the counter goal. We have customers for life and an excellence in coffee. What we wanted to do was create an experience that provided outstanding coffee prepared in a great way,” says Ripley.

Clique encourages the coffee education.

“In addition to being informed about coffee, coffee origins [and] coffee processes, we really care about providing excellent customer experience. One of the things we try to do is meet everybody where they are in their coffee experience. In America, we consume 60% of the world’s coffee. Coffee is important to a lot of people, even people who don’t know a lot about coffee,” says Ripley.

Ripley stresses the importance of meeting customers where they are in their coffee experience. They also encourage customers to try new methods, expand their experience and knowledge of coffee and make informed decisions.

“After the morning crowd is done, we take off drip coffee and only do hand brewed coffee for the rest of the day. That is one of our cornerstones-the hand brewed coffee. [We want to] drive people to hand brewed coffee just because it’s so much better. There’s no comparison. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t taste the difference between hand brewed and auto drip,” says Ripley.

Ripley has a personal approach and philosophy of coffee.

“My rule for coffee is not learn the best [method] and then do it all the time. It’s whatever is delicious. I think that’s the best rule to have because there are tons of methods. Everyone’s palette is different. There are so many different ways to do coffee. There’s no perfect way to do it,” says Ripley.

Unlike other coffee shops in Grand Rapids area, Clique offers a unique asset to their menu called The Ten Pound Series. Ripley says The Ten Pound Series is similar to a tap series at a bar. Clique purchases 10 pounds of a single origin bean. The beans are brewed according to their specific tasting notes.

Ripley says some have been concerned about their proximity to the three Starbucks coffeeshops located near Knapp’s Corner.

“To be honest, Starbucks customers are not our customers. We don’t compete. If they have the choice, [our customers] would always go a local specialty coffee shop where baristas care about the coffee,” says Ripley.

“We see a direction for this area. The northeast side is just starting to grow in popularity. There are starting to be reasons to come out here. And I think that is only going to grow,” says Ripley.

Clique seeks to become more involved within the community.  

“There are two things we would love people to know about us. We have the only coffee happy hour in Grand Rapids. It’s from 4-7 p.m. everyday. We offer $2 pour overs, $2 in house lattes, $3 frappes, and $3 smoothies,” says Ripley.

Also, Ripley takes pride in Clique’s wireless internet.

“We have the fastest Wi-Fi experience of any public Wi-Fi I’ve ever been to,” says Ripley.

Originally deciding not to put out a tip jar, the baristas at Clique decided to collectively give away all earned tips to local organizations.

“People tip us for our service, skill and care for the coffee. The Clique staff decided early on to donate all of our tips to help others. All the money that is donated is kept in West Michigan. We initially said we weren’t going to accept tips. As we processed the creation of the company, we thought, ‘maybe we could do something cool with that money,’” says Ripley.

With the tips collected, Clique Coffee Bar is able to give back to the community.

In addition to the daily rhythm of the coffee shop, Clique Coffee Bar features local musicians from 7-10 p.m.

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