Electric Brew magical after move

The Electric Brew has managed to feel new and old after its big move.
Posted on Oct. 7, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.

Myron Bontrager says that if he had known how difficult it would be to move The Electric Brew, he's not sure that he would have done it.

It was like birthing a child. “It was a lot of labor, a lot of pain,” he said.

But two months after the move, there's little question the move was good for him, his business and downtown Goshen.

“Now I'm glad we did,” he said.

On Aug. 4-5, Bontrager and his staff moved a coffee shop that had been at Main and Washington for 16 years across the street to 118 E. Washington, Goshen.

And the beauty of the move is that the Brew, as the county's oldest coffee shop is best known, is both the same and different. And that's a good thing.

Dave Pottinger, Bontrager's landlord at the original location, approached him about moving.

Bontrager said no and asked for five reasons why he would.

Pottinger gave him five and maybe more:

Ÿ Parking is better and has access from front and back doors.

Ÿ More space.

Ÿ Space that makes more sense for a coffee shop (square instead of long and skinny).

Ÿ It's next door to Ignition Music.

Ÿ The building is beautiful in terms of windows, floors and ceiling.

Bontrager bit and started the work of moving to the building Pottinger is leasing from the Goshen Redevelopment Commission.

As he said, moving was hard.

But what's amazing is that the Brew manages to feel the same and different at the same time.

The old wooden chairs from dozens of different dining room sets are still there. So are the paintings and concert posters people love.

The coffee Bontrager roasts tastes the same and so do the cinnamon rolls. (If I were doing a search for the best in Elkhart County right now, I think the Brew cinnamon rolls would win. They're huge, rich and cinnamony. I'm a huge fan.)

But Bontrager noticed two big differences from the outset.

“One of the first things I noticed is people talk more in here than over there,” he said.

He was concerned that the Brew's role as a community gathering place may shift in the move. It didn't. If anything, it's easier to have conversations there now. The tables aren't as close together so talking privately with a friend is easier.

The other big difference Bontrager has noticed is that more groups are coming to the Brew. He's seeing collections of 10 or 12 people gathered around tables. And the small conference room upstairs, which $10 an hour and you need a reservation, has been used a lot, he said. (The original story said the conference room is free, but that was wrong.)

The new Brew is noisier. Bontrager said he doesn't want it to feel like a library, but is working on adding some noise panels to lower the rumble.

Did the new Brew lose anything?

Bontrager said there's nothing that was a “deal breaker.” He heard complaints from about four regulars who emailed complaining about the new space. He said that the Brew lost some nostalgia in a town that values that.

He's right, but there are enough touches of the old Brew to make it feel the way it did.

Bontrager and his employees have coped well, but they've had to think about where things are rather than just reaching for the cup or a baking ingredient that now has a new home.

In the coming months, some little changes behind the counter will happen. Dialing in the processes and systems is the primary goal of the coming months, he said.

A door allowing customers to go through the wall between Ignition and the Brew should be finished soon. So far, customers have had to go outside. State rules say the door between the two needs to close automatically if the fire alarm goes off and it's taken a bit to get the equipment.

The Brew helped start Goshen on the path to hipness when Brenda and Tony Hostetler Kauffman opened it 16 years ago in a former Arby's.

Bontrager carried the business forward.

Pottinger helped orchestrate moving the business to a better location.

And now, Levi King is working to add a Jo Jo's Pretzel location where the Brew was.

As he roasts five tons of coffee a year or greets new and old customers, Bontrager creates a place for people to gather. And that has tremendous value to a town.

“I think we'll be OK,” Bontrager said.

I think so too.

Marshall V. King is managing editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth. You can reach him at 574-296-5805, mking@etruth.com, on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

If You Go

What: The Electric Brew

Where: 118 E. Washington St., Goshen

Fare: Coffee, baked goods, basic lunch

Details: No smoking, ADA accessible (though conference room isn't), credit cards accepted.

Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, noon to 7 Sunday

Phone: 574-533-5990

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