Take a walk far enough down Wealthy Street and you’ll come across a small red building with green trim and a green and white striped awning stretching across two large bay windows. Birds perched on a branch decorate the windows along with the words, “The Sparrows” and, “coffee, tea and newsstand” underneath. The outer façade of the building gives off the appearance of a small café with room for a small barista’s counter and a couple of tables, at best. However, after entering through the two sets of doors, you’re instantly greeted with a rustic interior that stretches far back to the rear of the building; offering numerous and well-spaced tables and chairs. The air is soft and smells like a mix of brewed espresso and a conglomeration of teas, set along the counter in small glass jars. Another glass container proudly displays delicious looking scones, muffins and other associated pastries. If the initial atmosphere doesn’t immediately invoke a welcomed feeling, then The Sparrows’ staff of friendly baristas will. The music seems to be either totally dependent on the barista working, or a Pandora station plagued by attention deficit disorder. Twangy folk music is followed up by the pop lyrics of, “All the Single Ladies.”
Directly behind the counter you’ll find their impressive drink menu, offering blended creations with unique and inviting names like Feral Cat, Jeff Lester, Bob Barker and Donut’s Revenge. I took an adventure and tried the Behemoth; a shot of espresso layered over sweet, condensed milk. Turns out it was not my cup of espresso – I prefer my coffee less condensed and less espresso-ish. My misadventure into the menu was no fault of the baristas, who are more than willing to explain any of the drink options and provide recommendations if only you ask them, I didn’t. For brewed coffee fans The Sparrows may disappoint with only two brews filling their air pots. The good news is that the brewed coffee is always great and I have yet to have a bad java experience.
The most unique characteristic of Sparrows is in their description of, “coffee, tea and a newsstand.” Sure enough, along the east wall of the shop you’ll find shelves full of magazines, featuring both local and more obscure publications. They are all for sale and range in content from photography and graphic design, to alternative lifestyles and gay/lesbian culture.
If The Bitter End is the spacy, cultured brother who brags about week long trips to Paris; and Madcap the liberal arts educated sister who flaunts her budding freelance career with an air of pretentiousness; The Sparrows is the rustic cousin, content with their personality and offering everything that a coffeehouse should with none of the frivolous externalities; only plenty of inviting and pleasantly smelling interior seating – albeit one with a preclusion to external outlets.
With delicious scones greeting you, humorously named beverages to warm you, magazines to keep you occupied and outdoor seating to tint the pallor of your Vitamin D deficient skin, the Sparrows is character of coffeehouses of old. A place where people had their mail sent to, because they were there more than they were home. I used to frequent the Bitter End however, as of late I’ve been milling about The Sparrows more often than not. Hopefully the baristas don’t mind the extra mail.
Grab a cup of Joe, spot of Feral Cat or perhaps a good ole’ Jeff Lester at:
1035 Wealthy Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49504