The historic landmark standing proudly on the corner of South Washington & Genesee streets known as The Bancroft Complex, which houses the Bancroft Luxury Apartments, Bancroft Coffee & Tea and the Bancroft Wine & Martini Bar, has witnessed considerable progress and escalating success at spearheading the renaissance and re-invention of Downtown Saginaw.
Six months since their official opening last October, the apartments now enjoy a 42% occupancy rate, the Wine & Martini Bar witnesses a steady stream of patrons enjoying innovative appetizers, over 200 vintage wines, coupled with signature cocktails, and the coffee shop forms a gateway that opens its doors at 6:00 AM every morning from Monday through Friday, inviting the public to experience the meticulous care and detail they bring to each of their amenities.
The attraction of Bancroft Coffee & Tea is the same as that of the entire Bancroft Complex endeavor, which has kept a keen eye upon the renovation, refurbishing and restoration of physical structures that form an irreplaceable part in the tapestry of our past, all while building a new legacy built upon the needs and realities of the present.
According to project developer Mark Bodnar of Lakeshore Management, “We strive to bridge the gap between our modern hectic world and the slow paced historical era where people sat back and enjoyed a relaxing cup of coffee. Being located within the historic Bancroft building instantly transports you back to that place where quality ingredients and superior customer service forge a more important component than the bottom line.”
Much of the difference with the Bancroft’s selection of coffees centers around the fact that larger coffee houses and fast food stores use Robusta beans, which are inferior in both quality and taste than Arabica beans, which taste better and do not have a bitter after-taste.
Two pivotal elements distinguish Bancroft Coffee & Tea: first is the painstaking care taken to select the beans used to brew their coffee; and second is the fact they are one of the few – if not only coffee shop in the area to offer Signature Coffee Creations with items such as a Chocolate Latte that includes a shot of Godiva liqueur, or an Irish Coffee spruced up with Jameson whiskey and topped with whipped cream.
“Bancroft uses the finest beans available, roasted in downtown Chicago in small batches by Metropolis Coffee, the premier roaster in the Midwest that provides quality small batch roasting of superior beans that are the envy of the big corporate coffee house factories,” continues Bodnar. “Flown in shortly after roasting and brewed within days to guarantee the finest tasting coffee anywhere, from cultivating the finest beans around the world and then meticulously hand-selecting the ripest beans to quality controlled roasting and expert brewing, we make sure every step of the process produces the finest most flavorful cup of coffee. Anyone can sell coffee, but if you truly appreciate the flavor of quality coffee roasted with some of the most expensive beans in the world, we believe you will appreciate the difference our coffee provides.”
But Bancroft Coffee & Tea is about much more than offering a broad and delectable selection of freshly prepared coffee creations, as they also feature breakfast and lunch items that are some of the most unique seen in the area, let alone larger cities.
Recently I experienced the Bancroft Chicken Salad, which was unlike any I’ve ever tasted, concocted from an award-winning recipe prepared fresh daily with seasoned chicken breast, raisins, water chestnuts, chopped celery and tomato with melted white cheddar on a ciabatta roll for only $7.00. And the menu is varied and balanced nicely between salads, soups, flatbreads and sandwiches, along with signature yet affordable breakfast items ranging from Quiche Florentine for only $4.00 to The Ranch Hand (Seasoned egg, asada steak and melted white cheddar ($5.00).
Unquestionably, these items are unique to any breakfast menu in the area and as rings true with their coffee, prepared with unquestionable care and the freshest and most uniquely selected ingredients.
According to Café manager Holly Scherzer, in addition to their signature chicken salad, recently several new items were added to the menu. “We’ve also added a turkey club with smoked turkey, applewood bacon, pine nut pesto, melted white cheddar and fresh spinach on a toasted ciabatta roll, along with many other delectable concoctions.”
“All of our breakfast & lunch items were created for us by chefs in Chicago & Cleveland,” relates Mark. “Our staff has done a wonderful job of duplicating these recipes and serving up quality food at a good price. Someone could easily eat every day at Bancroft Coffee & Tea Café and not break the bank or get tired of our offerings.”
Bodnar adds that while there are very few independent coffee houses left in Saginaw, many of those that do exist also focus upon quality. “One of the best other than ourselves in Saginaw is the Dawn Of A New Day Coffee & Sandwich Shop, which just happens to be less than a quarter mile from us, which is another reason for people to experience Downtown Saginaw.”
“At the end of the day there are a lot of places that offer coffee and food but what sets us apart is the warm atmosphere, quality coffee and tea, experienced baristas, attention to detail, and great tasting food. I hope everyone in Saginaw can come in and try us out while they taste the difference and savor the experience.”
Into the Night • The Bancroft Wine & Martini Bar
As for the Bancroft Wine & Martini Bar, which has been open since April of last year, its reputation has steadily grown and resulted in a constant flow of both new faces and repeat customers.
With a wine selection spanning anywhere from 200-300 selections and an impressive array of signature drinks, recently new items have also been added to their appetizer menu, including Crab Cakes, Shrimp Cocktail and a truly amazing Trout Platter. With generous servings and remarkably reasonable price points, one can obtain a broad range of appetizers, flatbreads, Artisan cheese and meat boards, salads and desserts to accompany the details of your mood and selection of your drink.
The Feisty Feta Chicken Flatbread that I ordered one evening was replete with oven roasted white meat chicken, a delicious feta spread, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomato, fresh green onions and feta cheese crumbles and mozzarella served on a light, crisply Michigan made flatbread for only $8.00.
With a Happy Hour from 3-6 PM that allows you to get a premium dirty martini for as little as $5.00, this is undeniably a destination point that clearly understands the ‘art of the cocktail.’ Weekly specials currently consist of Martini Mondays, with $5.00 martinis all night long; Ladies Night on Tuesdays, with happy hour all night long for ladies, along with a complimentary chocolate assortment, with music filling and lifting the spirits of the room on Wednesday from 6:30 PM to close with Singer & Songwriter Night featuring new and upcoming talent, along with established musicians; and their new Jazz Night on Sundays from 6 PM to close.
CHET ALLEN • Saxophonist Extraordinaire
One of the featured musical talents at The Bancroft Wine & Martini Bar that I had the good fortune to connect with is saxophonist Chet Allen – regular featured performer for Sunday Jazz Night who will be performing at The Bancroft on Sunday, March 29th.
A Saginaw native who is also a retired Saginaw Police officer, Allen says that his interest in music developed at a very young age. “ I had an ear for music and would watch certain television shows like The Odd Couple and instantly became drawn into their theme song, listening to the entire arrangement. The same with The Pink Panther. Back then Henry Mancini was a huge influence to me and I went from the 6th grade elementary to 7th grade Junior High, back when they offered a summer band program. I wanted to play sax and the first day or two I couldn’t get a sound out, so thought this isn’t going to work. But I stuck with it and by the time school started, I began with Intermediate Band. Plus I had good influences in my neighborhood and guys who liked music.”
When asked about his influences, Chet immediate points to such greats as Grover Washington and David Sanborn, as well as Saginaw’s own Sonny Stitt; but one stand-alone influence came in the form of former 107 Jazz Night DJ Dante Toussante. “Because of Dante’s Jazz Show I was able to hear a lot of different artists than I would have otherwise; and I’m proud to say he is still my friend today.”
Since the year 2000 Allen has visited New Orleans many times and been able to associate with world-class musicians like Thad Richard, Chris Severin and Kurt Brunis. He’s played in clubs on Bourbon Street and the French market, which he says helped round-out his musical thought and increase his confidence when performing.
Chet is particularly proud to be performing at The Bancroft. “It’s the perfect atmosphere, beautifully restored, and this brings the most out of my performances,” he notes. Known for his improvisational talents, Chet notes how people tend to enjoy songs they are familiar with. “I’ll take a song like Sarah’s Smile, and play the hook and melody line of the song a couple times and then start creating on the spot. People hear my version and an automatic connection is established. I do practice a lot, but opportunities like the Bancroft encourage me to do so. I practice an average of 3 to 4 hours each day. It’s the key to my development. I’m not extremely talented per se, but I do practice a lot.”
Chet has a couple videos on youtube currently and has seen the ups and downs of Saginaw. “I’m proud to be part of its renaissance. I can say that I believe in the power of God to make anything happen. I’m not sure where I will end up, but I know if I follow what he tells me to do, it’s going to great and anything is possible.”
“I’m not looking to be some major artist,” he concludes. “I had a career before this. I just want to be a working musician and right now, this is where I want to be.”
Bancroft Apartments • Home is Where the Heart Is
With all but two of the units filled at the neighboring Eddy Building and the Bancroft Luxury Apartments currently close to 42% occupancy, clearly the foundation of the downtown renaissance stems from getting people to embrace the notion of the ‘heart’ of the city truly becoming a place one can call home.
According to property manager Salina Silva and operations manager Elizabeth Arroyo, many tenants have evolved out of referrals from downtown businesses and the prospect for total occupancy is looking bright. “We have lots of people moving in this summer, especially with medical students that will be attending CMU. The students start in July and a few of those are already set to move in,” explains Elizabeth.
“We only have a couple two-bedroom apartments left between both the Bancroft & Eddy buildings,” adds Salina. “It’s interesting because some people start out wanting two bedroom units, but go down to one-bedroom after they see the space. They like the concept of having a high-end luxury until along with the amenities that come with it such as a coffee house in the morning and a fitness center to work out. Plus they can walk across the street and enjoy other benefits, so all the tenants know one another.”
With one-bedroom units unfurnished ranging from $750-$850 per month and furnished units starting at $1250, three choices of contemporary kitchen & color schemes are offered along with brushed nickel fixtures and premium amenities such as 24-hour secured lighted reserved parking, a 24-hour fitness center, heat, air, water & trash included, spacious closets, and high-tech media and business centers wife available and cable ready.
Additionally, both the Bancroft & Eddy have spacious storefront retail space available, which Elizabeth notes has gleaned substantial interest. “We’re in the process of setting up meetings with parties interested in the commercial units. We want to find the right fit for those spaces and would love to have another restaurant down here, or even a boutique or something positive that we can add to the Downtown area, so we’re taking time with it.”
As for the landmark Ballroom located at the Bancroft, both women say it is also doing well. “We didn’t expect it take off like this so quickly, notes Elizabeth. “We’ve got weddings and holiday parities booked and are pretty steady with the rentals.”
“Honestly, there’s so much we want to do but can’t do it all at once,” she concludes.
Given the divergent range of goal, aspiration, quality and professionalism brought to each aspect of the Bancroft Development, six months down the road since its Grand Opening it is apparent that the line between dream and reality is quickly converging.
This is no small task and one that all those involved with this project should take pride in. What is proves to this writer and lifelong citizen of our fair city is that a brand new community is steadily evolving and open for your enjoyment. If you have yet to partake of its many treasures, now is the time.