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The Last Mile Café serves coffee, philanthropy and sustainability — and soon, 49507

Arick Davis and Sarah Laman are runners. They say the hardest part of a race is the last mile. Comparing the state of the world to a long-distance race, they decided these times felt like that last mile. So when it came time to name their small online cafe business, they settled on “Last Mile Café.”

“We started our business in the middle of the pandemic, and there was so much going on – challenges with healthcare, the unemployment system, protests. When it comes to our country and our civilization, we always feel like we still have a lot to do,” Davis says. “We wanted to create a company that sets an example for other companies. It’s the last mile for society to figure out what it needs to be and how we’re all going to work together.

Since its inception, Last Mile Café has donated over 10% of its revenue to charities that work for environmental justice, clean water, criminal justice reform or at-risk youth. Recipients include WMEAC, ACLU, Michigan Solidarity Bail Fund, and Hope Gardens, among others.

“Each quarter, we send text messages to everyone who is in [the Last Mile Café] community and ask them to name charities,” Davis says. “We let our community vote on which charities they want the money to go to.”

Arick Davis and Sarah LamanAll packaging, purchasing and processes are done with sustainability in mind. In mid-October, when Last Mile Café moves into its new physical location at 1006 Hall St. SE, Davis and Laman plan to expand these aspects of their business even further. The location will also include a retail cafe. Last Mile Café already uses compostable packaging. When the physical location opens, Arick and Laman hope to approach zero waste for all operations. They try to source sustainably grown and processed coffee beans. At some point, they hope to establish their own direct relationships with green coffee growers.

“There are really two ways to process coffee,” says Davis. “First, they put it in the sun, the cherries fall naturally – if you imagine the pit inside a cherry, it’s basically the coffee bean we all use. Or, growers can wash them high pressure to make the cherries come off. It’s faster and more consistent, but in many countries where coffee is grown, people don’t necessarily even have access to clean drinking water.

“We’re going to fill up [production] process at the Café,” says Davis. “We roast coffee there. And then we will do all the packing and shipping. All coffee beverages we serve at The Café will be that coffee we roast in Grand Rapids.

Davis grew up in 49507, near the new physical location of the Last Mile Café. After graduating from Michigan Technological University in 2016, he worked for several Fortune 500 companies – Dematic, Western Digital and Goldman Sachs. He discovered that capitalism does not treat everyone fairly and that too few coffee and tea brands are committed to justice.

“When I came back to Grand Rapids, I noticed there weren’t a lot of cafes here,” he says. “I used to live in Franklin and Eastern and the closest cafes are right up on Wealthy Street, which isn’t even in the same neighborhood.”

The Last Mile Café’s Hall Street location will employ 11 people to handle roasting, packaging, distribution and retail coffee. The plan is to increase production, enter more retail stores and increase online sales.

“Having this physical space will also create this café environment where people can come and hang out in the community,” Davis says. “So many people have come to us and said, ‘You’re our favorite coffee. We love the way you do this. We love the way it tastes. Grand Rapids has many great coffee companies. Michigan, Michigan as a state, also has many great coffee companies, I think more people are looking to Grand Rapids for coffee.

Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of Last Mile Café

Arick Davis and Sarah Laman inspect the equipment of their online coffee business.

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement