THUNDER BREW Coffee Company & the Birth of The Acoustic Café

Elizabeth & Dan Propp Bring a Welcomed Blend to the Live Music Scene By Fostering a Fresh Showcase for Musical Talent

Posted In: Culture, Restaurants,   From Issue 785   By: Robert E Martin

13th February, 2014     0

Thunderbrew Coffee Company, newly re-located at 7194 Gratiot Rd., in Thomas Township, is rapidly distinguishing itself on many levels as an innovative addition to the Great Lakes Bay. Not only does it function as a top-notch specialty coffee company that strives to provide the freshest coffee possible to customers while also providing homemade baked goods, sandwich wraps, fresh homemade soups and salads; but it is also focused upon fostering a fresh renaissance for showcasing local live entertainment with it’s newly formed and ever evolving ‘Acoustic Café’.

Sly & the Family Stone wrote a hit song in the 1970s called ‘A Family Affair’, and in many ways Thunderbrew functions as an extension of that vision.  Owned by the husband and wife team of Elizabeth & Dan Propp, veteran and legendary musician John Krogman has also jumped on board to help build Thunderbrew into a showcase venue for new, young, and fresh talent populating the area eager for exposure and a supportive environment to further their musical dreams.

The origins of Thunderbrew date back to 2005, when Elizabeth started in the coffee industry by cutting her teeth working for various companies around the area. “I managed larger corporations here and in Minnesota,” she explains, “and when we moved back here we decided to develop a business plan and see where it went. And here we are!”

“There are coffee shops everywhere that are all very similar,” reflects Elizabeth when asked what she feels distinguishes Thunderbrew, “but my biggest goal is to make people feel truly welcome by adding special touches to our menu and service so when they walk in they feel totally comfortable whether sitting down or purchasing a drink or food item to go”

When it comes to coffee, Thunderbrew offers eight different varieties that consist of two blends but focuses on single origin coffees. “My focus is on the single origins,” notes Elizabeth, “because that’s where you get the higher-end coffee without having to worry about quality. We have a small roaster and eventually want to roast our own coffee, but right now we feature a Mocha Java blend from Indonesia and Africa, an Indian Sumatra, different Latin American blends, along with a super dark rich roasted Galapagos Mexican blend that is the only organic coffee that we carry. That one is my personal favorite.”

“I also love baking and do it all right here,” states Elizabeth. “Right now we feature a lot of different scones and mine are different from any that you’ve had in your life. I’ve had many people tell me I bake the best scone they ever have tasted, which honestly makes me blush. But this recipe is my own recipe and I did not take it from anybody else. I’ve tried a zillion different recipes for scones and there is always something that I didn’t like about them. So through a lot of trial and error on my part I found a ratio between flour, butter, sugar, and heavy crème that I like, so the texture is like a cross between a muffin and a biscuit. They’re not super moist like a muffin, but they are definitely not dry like a biscuit; and I have 8 different flavors featured in my case.”

“For this location, our biggest deal is incorporating the food and the baking into the overall environment.  We do all our baking and food menu in-house and all our soups are made from scratch daily. And now with The Acoustic Café’ we are bringing the musical element into the mix and really want to capitalize on that and offer Thunderbrew as a home base for younger adults to showcase their talent in a friendly non-alcohol oriented environment where they can have their friends come and watch them play and perform. I enjoy music a lot and grew up with John as my Dad, so music is a big part of my life.”

Birth of the Acoustic Café

Currently Thunderbrew is featuring live entertainment every Wednesday Night from 4:00 – 7:00 PM with Eastside Mike & John Krogman and is featuring different acts on Friday Nights from 6:00 – 9:00 PM.

A team effort between Dan Propp and John Krogman, recently a stage was installed at Thunderbrew and Krogman decided to hang his old guitars from the Johnny & the Boomers days on the wall.  “I’m trying to create a good atmosphere here and we aren’t even close yet,” notes Krogman. “I’m looking at different stage setups and scapes, planning on bringing a rug in for the stage, and want to make this a place where musicians will want to come and perform.”

“What we want to do is give kids and younger artists a place to come and perform if they are eager to play,” continues Krogman. “If you’ve got young kids looking to get their feet wet, or even adults my own age that wish to perform, we are establishing nights where they can come in and take over the stage.”

“Right now we’re not in a position to pay anybody, and I’m not saying that won’t happen; but at this stage we are trying to create this supportive atmosphere with a cool, nice atmosphere and then send out invitations to younger and established artists like Scott Baker or Andy Reed, or anybody that has CD’s that wishes to go out and sell their wares. My goal is to develop this into a coffee house that has a reputation as a cool place for musicians from all walks and stages of the game to perform.”

“Hopefully this will catch on and people will want to perform, but if they don’t, then I’ll show up and come down to play,” states Krogman. “I’m looking to do something different. It’s not that the bar scene is bad, but the scene isn’t like it used to be, so the goal is to build something new.”

“We are talking with different artists and trying to get the younger kids and bands to rotate,” adds Dan. “We’ve had some great artists take to the stage both at our earlier location in Bay City and at our new location, so are structuring a method to build the momentum.”

“We have a PA here so people don’t have to haul all their equipment down; and Mike Smith has been a big supporter of this,” notes Krogman. “I can’t say enough about the ways he has helped us. He’s got plenty of gear and our long range plans include recording video and audio of artists that perform here, so they will have a document of their performance that they can shop around to other venues, and also learn from studying.”

“Right now we feature paintings and artwork from different local artists that we change around monthly,” adds Dan. “But as we switch it out I would like to make spots available for posters that promote each artist that plays here on any particular month. We’ll have about three or four slots strategically placed throughout the shop to give it a local musical flavor. We want to give artists and young performers more than a place to play and perform, but also a venue to sell their CDs and spread their imagery around.”

“From my perspective, I’m thinking of the many places that I’ve performed at over the years and how they didn’t do this, or failed to do that,” emphasizes Krogman. “My intention is to do this and that and create a venue that is artist friendly. In short, this is a place musicians can come and do their show and find the venue totally behind them.”

“Our goal is to get these kids coming in that don’t have a lot of experience and give them exposure and help them get over their stage fright,” adds Dan. “We’ll give them a video with sound and give them a package and get them outside their normal realm.”

“I pulled together an Open Mic night years ago at The Coffee Factory on Genesee and Bay,” reflects Krogman, “and who came out of that but guys like Aaron Johnson, Ray Torez, Tim Avram – the list goes on. Those kids got their feet wet back then and I would take my PA over there, they would come in and plug into my gear, and some of the parents would come and say ‘Thanks – it’s important that these kids have a place to do this where we don’t have to worry about them for three or four hours.  My goal is to use that as a template and improving upon it here at Thunderbrew.”

“As far as music goes we would like to see this turn into something that the community can really embrace,” states Dan. “There’s nothing high pressure about it and we are also entertaining the possibility of doing some charity work for the local school systems, as a kick-start to motivate kids. If they have a recital to do we want them to consider us.”

Krogman perhaps best sums it up when he smiles at me and notes: “When we were growing up there were things like the YMCA dances and if you were a musician or a kid that just enjoyed watching your friends perform, it was a thrill to play at those dances and a thrill to go out and watch them.”

“Jim Perkins said something to me recently that has stuck with me ever since. He looked at me once and said ‘When we were 25 years old we weren’t going out and looking at 60-year old guys playing music.’ And the truth of the matter is that it’s not our scene anymore. We held on to it for a long time, but that day is over.  For me what we are attempting here at Thunderbrew is a good bridge for the future.”

Thunderbrew Coffee Company is open Monday – Saturday from 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM and Sunday from 6:00 AM – 3:00 PM.  Anybody interested in performing at ‘The Acoustic Café’ should call Dan Propp at 989-401-0180.  Also be sure to check out their facebook page.


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