Visitors entering downtown Kalamazoo via westbound M-43 are welcomed by the official, imposing “Kalamazoo” sign on their left; more welcoming, however, may be a small building just a few blocks farther up: Water Street Coffee Joint. Located at the intersection of Kalamazoo Ave. and Water St., the tiny coffee shop is a must-stop for any visitor to the area.
Opened in 1993 in a depression-era gas station building, WSCJ has been providing Kalamazoo residents with their caffeine fix and more ever since. The business prides itself on understanding coffee and educating both their employees and their customers on all its qualities. WSCJ started roasting their own coffee beans in 2000, giving them a customized product and far more control in the creative process. Business has gone so well that they opened a second location in 2003 in the Oakwood neighborhood of Kalamazoo. Both locations serve similar drinks and food. The newer location features great outdoor seating and a friendly neighborhood atmosphere, but the downtown location is truly the place to visit.
The downtown location
The building itself is one of the more striking aspects of the business. It’s located on a tiny V-shaped intersection, bordered by Kalamazoo Ave., Water St. and a set of railroad tracks. The small building seats around 30 people at most; this gives it a uniquely cozy atmosphere not often duplicated in this town. It has the flexibility of being able to convert its open porch into indoor seating in the winter, but even then it maintains the small feeling. Artwork collections hang on the walls as WSCJ features a rotation of local artists every few months.
Behind the front counter you’ll find fresh deli food such as wraps and salads. WSCJ makes their own food, and offers many healthy or vegetarian options hard to find in most restaurants. For those watching calories, the desserts will be a strong temptation. Once again all home-made, they feature a variety of cakes, pies, cookies and snack bars. One popular specialty is their Incredible Bar, made from a peanut-butter base, topped with hard chocolate and drizzled with white chocolate.
Of course their true specialty is their coffee and the plethora of drinks they offer. They range from a simple brewed dark roast cup of coffee to their Mocha del Sol, a mixture of espresso, chocolate and hot pepper (this one may be an acquired taste, but they have plenty of more approachable drinks too). Prices are reasonable considering what is offered; they’re about comparable to any local Starbucks but the product is vastly better if you’re a coffee lover. There’s also the added benefit of well-informed baristas. They have a great understanding of the drinks and food they sell, and are happy to answer any questions customers have. This personalized approach is one of the numerous reasons to visit WSCJ. It’s a local business with passion for their product, and it comes across in every drink they sell.
If you want to learn more, visit their website at http://www.waterstreetcoffeejoint.com/downtown-kalamazoo.php .
Hours at the downtown location at 315 E. Water St, Kalamazoo MI 49007 are as follows: