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Detroiters Share Fond Memories of Astro Coffee and Ochre Bakery, Both Closing This Month

The beloved Corktown cafe was considered among the first wave of artisan coffee shops to hit the city

A barista prepares a coffee drink at Astro Coffee in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit
Astro Coffee opened in Corktown in 2011, ushering in a growing number of third wave coffee houses in Detroit.
Michelle and Chris Gerard

Astro Coffee and Ochre Bakery, two local favorites, are set to close on Sunday, May 15, more than a decade after the first cafe was established in Corktown.

Astro, which briefly reopened its Corktown location earlier this year, shared the news in a a post to Instagram on Wednesday, May 4, saying that both the cafe and Ochre Bakery were closing permanently this month.

“It’s hard to really know what to say in these moments, but we are forever grateful for all of the love and support we have been shown over the last 11 years of having a business in this city. For the customers, growers, partners and employees past and present, we could not have been blessed with a better community to be a part of,” read the statement. A call to owners Jessica Hicks and Dai Hughes was not returned.

The New York Times once described Astro Coffee as “meticulous” in its sourcing of beans “from places like Ritual Coffee Roasters in San Francisco and George Howell Coffee in Acton, Mass,” intimating that its presence in Corktown was a sign that the city was on the come up.

When its doors opened in 2011, it marked one of the earlier “third wave” coffee shops to enter the Motor City, a cafe that not only emphasized the quality of its beans, baked goods, and incredible array of egg sandwiches, but also felt like Cheers in many respects for the regulars who frequented the place. Since then, a stream of new cafes, bake shops, and artisan food businesses that have gone on to reshape the city’s local food and drink offerings.

In 2017, the cafe announced plans to start roasting its own beans in its new “roastery” in Core City, and in 2019, owners Jessica Hicks and Dai Hughes launched Ochre Bakery, offering Detroiters one of just a few bakeries that focused on bread making.

Within months of opening, Ochre went on to enjoy critical success both nationally and locally, beloved for its impressive menu of sandwiches, pastries, and seasonal ingredients.

But like a growing number of other beloved food businesses in Detroit, the pandemic put pressure on operations at both Astro and Ochre. The flagship Corktown location closed in November 2020, halted its roasting business, and began offering pour-overs and espresso drinks from its roastery space.

The ownership had turned to the companies’ Instagram account frequently over the past two years to share their experiences running businesses throughout the pandemic, as well as let the public know about efforts they were doing to support their workforce, and outreach to vulnerable communities impacted by COVID-19.

Detroiter Lauren Hood, a local nonprofit leader, is among the many Astro-Ochre devotees. She said that while the space itself could give off hipster vibes, she was drawn to Hicks and Hughes’ attention to just about every detail of the businesses, from the curated music playlists, hiring practices, concern for how workers were treated, and the quality of its ingredients. “There’s so much intention in every detail at Astro and Ochre, you know, that set it light years beyond every other ‘coffee-come-lately,’” she said.

Following the news of Astro and Ochre’s closures, a number of other food businesses that have opened in the years since the Michigan Avenue cafe hit the scene expressed their love for both spaces.

“Much love and deep gratitude to the Astro & Ochre crew and family. Forever thankful for all of your thoughtful conversations, [collaborations] and words of advice and support throughout the years. Now for some deep time for self+family,” said a post from fellow Corktown cafe, Folk.

“We literally can’t count the number of songs that only exist because of [Astro Coffee],” read another post from Assemble Sound, the Detroit music company with its hub based in an old church near the original Astro location.

There’s no word yet on what might be next for Hicks or Hughes. Fans may drop by before Sunday to bid farewell.

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