A Bit of Clara-ty: Best Local Locations to Sip and Study

The coffee scene in Grand Rapids is far from disappointing. Littered throughout the city are a plethora of cafes and shops. Some are quaint and cozy, occupying old historic buildings, while others are swanky and modernized.

 The visual aesthetics of coffee shops are of less importance than the aromas and flavors of each coffee shop’s brews, however if one wants to spend a decent amount of time inside, then it’s a completely different story.

As a student, the question of when and where am I going to be able to get my homework done is a recurring issue that plagues my mind. The successful equation of actually getting work done has multiple variables. An environment where I am able to zone out and truly focus on the work at hand is that of a coffee shop. Some coffee shops are more effective study spaces than others. 

I’ll first touch on Starbucks. Despite being a reliable corporate chain, I don’t find the atmosphere inside Starbucks to be particularly beneficial for studying. Perhaps this is due to it usually being quite crowded. The layout is more modern and open, so sound travels more easily throughout the building. The chairs are not always the most comfortable, so this is not the coziest coffee shop. Not my first choice. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum is The Bitter End Coffee House. Located on the west side of Grand Rapids off of Fulton, the Bitter End provides a warm and cozy atmosphere. The building is an old bank, with original flooring and interior detailing. The walls are decorated with various old photographs, paintings, posters, and artifacts (like a clay human nose). From when I’ve visited, 30s big band and smooth jazz music play consistently. I prefer The Bitter End to Starbucks. However, be wary when you visit because last time I was there the barista proceeded to hit on every woman that went up to the counter. If you were curious, not a single attempt landed, so better luck next time I guess. A lot of GVSU college kids frequent this place, and the shop is open 24 hours which is convenient.

The Early Bird is another safe bet and a personal favorite of some of my friends. Be wary- the cafe is true to its name and closes around 4pm. This doesn’t give much time for high schoolers to utilize the space on weekdays. Though, on the weekends it’s an excellent place to study. A lot of natural light flows into the building making it cozy, but not sleep inducing; the Bitter End sometimes has the latter effect. The interior is painted white which helps to keep you awake. In relation to how study spaces go, I’d put Early Bird before the Bitter End. 

Another cozy place to study is Sparrow’s coffee shop, on Wealthy Street. Sparrow’s is located in a vintage building to foster a warm and inviting atmosphere. Sparrow’s closes at 6pm, which gives highschool students more time to use the space. Due to the pandemic, Sparrow’s didn’t allow patrons to sit inside the building for a decent amount of time, and only offered orders for pick-up. As of now however, you are able to sit inside the building and eat.

Squibb is an additional option, also located on Wealthy Street. The interior is a little more modern than Sparrow’s however not by much. A large painting of a pink squid is painted on the wall. I’ve gone to study at Squibb in the past, but today I’m less keen to go there mostly due to the limited natural light in the interior of the building. It can get somewhat dark inside which I’m not too fond of.

This story was originally published in the March 31 edition of The East Vision.