Steve Wiltjer has been a part of the independent, local coffee world in West Michigan since 2006. During this time, coffee has become his hobby, passion and art. Steve has practiced and perfected his personal coffee skills, enjoying the labor of every cup of coffee he’s created. He’s become a certified Barista with the Specialty Coffee Association of America, a member of the Barista Guild of America and has been certified as a trainer through the SCAA. For Steve, becoming a business owner in this great city and walking this coffee journey have now combined, in Lantern. Coffee has become not only a hobby but also a doorway into the hearts and souls of the people of Grand Rapids.
Married in 2010, Steve and his wife, Rachel Bush, are invested Grand Rapids residents. Rachel has lived downtown for 11 years now, and Steve for about 5. For better or worse, they’ve committed to this city and have no plans to call elsewhere home. They are dedicated to becoming continuously more invested in the health and happiness of Grand Rapids; the city and the people. Steve has a specific love for the Heartside neighborhood through various past ventures. He’s thrilled that this is a place he can build a business and find another place to call home.
In January of 2012, Steve’s sister, Lisa, married Kevin Wallace. Steve, then managing Ninth Bridge Coffee in Ada, hired Kevin to work with him as a barista. At the time, Kevin had some experience in chain coffee and was eager to break the barrier into local, signature coffee. He has done so with growing excitement! Kevin, also, is now a certified barista through the SCAA. Lisa and Kevin have come to discover the virtues of living in a Grand Rapids city neighborhood. They are new to downtown and are learning quickly the beauty and life of GR. All four are excited to “own” a little piece of something in this great city.
When Ninth Bridge Market closed in the summer of 2012, Steve and Kevin decided to join forces, in hopes that one day Steve’s longstanding dream of a coffee shop downtown Grand Rapids would be a possibility. They set up a temporary coffee bar in Ada waiting for the perfect GR option. As it turns out, an opportunity at 100 Commerce came up in a hurry. All hands on deck Steve & Rachel with Kevin, Lisa & Baby Girl Logan (and the help of happy friends and family) worked long hours in the new space to bring the dream into reality. In a whirlwind of only a few months, Lantern has proudly found a home at Commerce and Oakes.
“Lantern exists, not only to provide great, intentional coffee to GR, but also to be a hospitable place for ALL to gather. We desperately value belonging, community and diversity. And we recognize the deep needs for all three in our current lives and culture. We hope that our business and space can provide a place for many, many people to gather and belong.”