Nick Mannisto launched a successful food truck during the pandemic and that helped put him into position to buy a popular downtown Brighton coffee shop and eatery.
Mannisto, 28, has dreamed of opening a brick-and-mortar eatery since launching his food truck, Captain’s Wööd Fired Pies, in August 2020.
Earlier this month, he took over Two Brothers Coffee, which he purchased from Jim Starnes, who opened it in 2008.
Mannisto, who is also a professional DJ, and his girlfriend Lauren Somers, a yoga instructor who is helping him with the business, said they will make changes slowly over time to the menu, drink offerings — including coffee, tea, beer, wine and liquor — and interior.
They plan to install a wood-fired pizza oven encased in black mosaic tiles near the front door this summer.
“The restaurant will evolve where it feels like you’re right by a fire, hearth style, chilling by the fire with your friends,” Mannisto said.
He said when the pizza oven is installed, the name will change to something new to include the word “Captain’s.”
“Everything is going to be as Michigan as possible, as local possible,” he said.
Mannisto wants to partner with local farms for pizza ingredients, and as part of that goal he has been talking with Cardinal Farms in South Lyon.
“I want to have a hyper-local pie,” he said. “We’ll grow the wheat, take water right from that water shed, and the pork will be raised there, and whatever other toppings will be from that location.”
He said one type of pizza that has been popular with his food truck customers is a Margarita pizza with pesto, a balsamic reduction, fresh mozzarella and garlic parmesan crust. Pepperoni is another popular pie.
“We will specialize in pizza, but there will be special occasions when we’ll try to figure out wood-fired pasta and steaks,” he said.
He said limited delivery will be available within a walkable area.
Drinks from Michigan
The Two Brothers site will continue to sell coffee, tea, beer, wine and liquor. The new owners expect the liquor license to transfer soon.
“It will be lots of different kinds of drinks, coming soon,” Mannisto said.
They have already started partnering with Livingston County-based Good Sense Coffee for non-flavored coffees. They will also serve flavored coffees from Traverse City-based Espresso Bay and teas from Livonia-based Fraser Tea.
In addition, they will offer Michigan-made alcoholic drinks, including Gypsy Vodka from Petoskey and local beers.
“People will get to experience the change slowly as it happens,” Sommers said. “Usually people cover the windows. But here, every time someone walks in, the food and drinks will be a little different. People can be a part of it. Every time you walk in you might notice something changing, it could be new chairs or paint.”
She said the food truck and Two Brothers Coffee both have strong customer followings.
“I’m excited to get his Captain’s following in here,” once the pizza oven is installed, she said. “It will bring both sides together, the people who have been coming to this coffeehouse for years and then Captain’s following.”
Mannisto said he wants to host special events, music and community activities.
“We’ll have pop-up special events and themed dinners,” Somers said.
Mannisto said ideas include dinners featuring breweries in the area, paint-and-pour art activities, pizza demos for kids and educational events to teach people the best ways to make coffee or how to grow produce.
“I’d even like to work with the high schools and do internships with culinary students who want to progress a career in the hospitality industry,” he said.
He added he would like to give back to Howell High School’s student-run cafe and culinary program, which helped inspire his career as a chef.
“I also want to do my own festival in the next couple years, maybe in January,” he said.
He said the festival could be inspired by The Plymouth Ice Festival and he would like to collaborate with winter-themed businesses, including Mt. Brighton Ski Resort.
He also hopes to expand charitable contributions to causes he supports, including VETLIFE and Toys for Tots, now that he has a brick-and-mortar location.
Changing of the guard
Starnes, 63, said he sold Two Brothers Coffee because he was ready to retire.
“I worked 38 years in law enforcement and then did the coffee shop and it was time to do something different and let some young blood, if you will, get in there,” he said. “He has a great plan and I great idea, so I was very happy to see he wanted to do that.”
He said he is looking forward to traveling to visit his children and grandchildren, and he and his wife are building a home in Brighton Township.
“There are a lot of good customers there. They’ve come by all the time and some people have created a lot of relationships like that. It was nice to do that,” he said.
He said running the coffee shop brought important connections into his own life as well, including getting his two dreat Dane dogs from a customer and joining the Cornerstone Evangelical Presbyterian Church community.
Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Timar at firstname.lastname@example.org.