The owners of Detroit’s popular cafe Astro Coffee have a new bakery in the works. The spot dubbed Ochre Bakery is heading to a space inside the Sawtooth building at 4884 Grand River Ave. in Core City. The project is part of a larger set of developments from Prince Concepts coming to the neighborhood including a new restaurant from Takoi’s founders called Magnet.
Astro’s owners Jessica Hicks and Dai Hughes began developing their fledgling coffee roasting business inside the Sawtooth building last fall. Ochre will be located in a neighboring space between the roastery and chef Brad Greenhill’s forthcoming commissary kitchen.
Astro Coffee originally opened its doors on Michigan Avenue in 2011 in the early days of Detroit’s restaurant boom and quickly became a hit not just for its coffee but also for Hicks’ delicious egg sandwiches and pastries. However, Hughes tells Eater that the success of the cafe came at a cost. “We’ve been really grateful but really limited since we opened in Corktown,” he says. “The food took off quickly and unexpectedly, so we were kind of playing catchup since day one.” At just 700 square feet, he notes that Astro’s menu is assembled using only a half-sized oven and hot plates. “If we’re making an order for 200 cookies, we’re making them nine cookies at a time,” he says.
With the addition of Ochre Bakery, Hicks will finally have the space she needs to produce more and a wider selection of pastries, breads, and cakes. Hicks says customers can expect anything from croissants to seasonal fruit danishes to spelt carrot cake and chocolate caramel tarts at the shop. Ochre’s bread program will be headed by Max Leonard, who previously operated a stand at the Corktown Farmers Market. “We found that we have a common passion for naturally leavened bread produced with care using flour from heritage grains, grown and milled as locally as possible,” Hicks says in an email of the collaboration with Leonard. The cafe will also offer a selection of lunch items including Australian-style meat pies, sausage rolls, sandwiches, and salads.
Ochre, named after the color of the soil in Hicks’ native Australia, is being designed by Et al. Collaborative and received a $30,000 Motor City Match grant for small business development in April. The shop will feature a large baking area that will supply goods to both the Ochre and Astro as well as wholesale accounts. The “nucleus” of Ochre is a centrally located, glass-enclosed pastry room that’s temperature and humidity controlled, Hughes says. The public portions of the space will be divided into a 15- to 18-seat dine-in area and quick-service coffee counter with grab-and-go items.
As for the expanded coffee business, Hughes says that he and Hicks were new to the roasting process and have used the last year to experiment with the equipment and sample roasts in-house. They hope to begin serving their product more widely at their cafes and through wholesale partnerships by early fall — around the same time that Ochre is expected to open. Stay tuned for more updates as the project moves forward.
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