Restaurant Profile: Lyndsay Edmonds, Owner of Harless + Hugh Coffee and The Public House - Bay City, MI
Hi Lyndsay! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Lyndsay Edmonds is the owner of Downtown Bay City’s popular gathering places Harless + Hugh Coffee and The Public House. As a barista and bartender, Edmonds loves creating places where people connect with one another. There is a special place in her heart for creating “third spaces” for the community to gather over a great cup of coffee, meal or cocktail, often all locally sourced. The care put into such craftsmanship can be seen in the handmade, artisan details at Public House, quality sourced coffee at Harless + Hugh Coffee, Michigan grass-fed proteins, and handmade juices and syrups.
A graduate of Essexville-Hampton Garber High School, Edmonds moved back Bay City in 2012 and has been building her businesses and brand ever since. She is inspired by craftsmanship in all forms and her travels abroad, exploring China, Nepal, Thailand, Jordan and Israel after college as well as a stint teaching English in Italy.
She believes most things in life can be solved over a good cup of coffee or a warm meal. You’ll likely find her serving up all of that to friends and patrons that are already familiar or will be soon.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I actually have an exercise science degree, I was a rower in college and I was obsessed with how the human body functioned at that time in my life. Thought I was going to go into the Doctors with Borders program and help people. When I lived in Miami, I used to teach students that came from low income or migrant households or how to row. I then went on to start my first job in hospitality at Canyon Ranch Spa/Resort. I worked tons of restaurants jobs through high school and college but this was my first peek at really cultivating someones hospitality experience. Growing up as a kid and into my young adult years, my parents were always having people over, throwing dinner parties and hosting people. I learned so much by watching them that its truly about taking care of people and setting the atmosphere more so than what exactly you’re serving for food and drink. My great grandpa, Harless Hugh Blair was an entrepreneur who had 8 kids, they all became entrepreneurs and then my parents have both worked for themselves their entire lives as well. Ive always been surrounded by people who have carved their own path.
What led you to start both The Public House and Harless & Hugh? What drew you to food and drink? Shortly before I opened Harless + Hugh Coffee I was doing majority of my traveling. I had left my job at Canyon Ranch, sold everything I owned, to live out of a backpack for 4 months, traveling though China, Thailand, Nepal and Israel. And then landed in Italy teaching English. Food and beverage was so much of where I felt I spent time meeting people from the local cultures. I loved the sense of community and relationships I felt being in that atmosphere. I knew once I settled on a place to lay some roots, that I was going to work for myself, and that it would be in the hospitality field.
Community seems to be at the core of your businesses. Being in Bay City, why was it important for you to create beautiful spaces for people to gather in and how does your community play a role?
The community is everything to these businesses. Without them, there would be no coffee shop or cocktail bar. I am forever grateful for that and in return its important for me to give this community the best possible space and the highest quality food and beverage options. Bay City is so underserved in this area and so many people do things for foley for themselves or to make a buck and typically when that happens they renovate a building really poorly or just overall have poor options because they only care about their bottom line. With us, it's literally about the people and its about what feeds my morals and ethics, knowing I am creating a space and curating an experience to the best of my ability. Communities need the “third space” concept, which is the place they go between home and work. And thats exactly what I strive to do every time I open a new space, is to create one thats just as beautiful and comfortable as someones living room. That comes through in the music, the temperate, the lighting, the quality of products we serve and most importantly how our staff makes you feel. Food and drink is secondary to something that matters even more, and what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experience and human relationships. It’s all about how you make people feel.
In addition to the restaurant and coffee shop, you also have a loft to host visitors. What went into the decision of creating lodging?
As I mentioned, working at Canyon Ranch in Miami was my first experience of hospitality/lodging and really curating that experience and I’ve always wanted to open a boutique hotel. The airbnb specifically was born out of a tragic lawsuit we’re going through. We had to get creative with some ideas on how to generate some extra cash to help booster The Public House. And we’ve landed a really successful side gig in opening the airbnb. We have this amazing space above the coffee shop that I've had the pleasure to live in the past 7 years and I’ve always dreamed of doing a EAT DRINK STAY concept with Harless. And it has happened!
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
Everyday is a different story of what I’m passionate about. Mostly I have so much social equity in this community and that brings me so much joy. I have poured all of my energy into my projects to provide a place for people to land and enjoy their day/evening. And when they do, or I hear how much someone loves our place or has found so much peace in one of our places, that fuels my passion to keep going, even when there are set backs.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face?
The biggest setbacks I feel I’ve had is access to funding. I have a million ideas and ways to continue to grow this community, and I always stand against the lack of funding. Secondly, The Public House has been going through a lawsuit for a year and a half now. I am up against people who have endless amounts of cash and have no value in what I am trying to do for our community. It's been a huge challenge figuring out cash flow and keeping our doors open. We’ve gotten really creative, the airbnb was born from this setback, to help us booster funding to support the business. I’ve also learned a lot from the process.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other? How have women supported you?
I believe we still live in a society where men still have subconscious ideas about the lack of talent and wisdom women carry. The future really is female and you can feel this uprising of fire within women in the communities around us. It’s amazing and really inspiring to see. Women trump men in the areas of empathy and compassion and I believe that’s really important for us to instill into the world right now. Because that’s what it needs most. There’s nothing more supportive than your female sister being your number one fan, cheering you on and overcoming the long gone days of jealousy and compassion. We're stronger when we band together than going it alone. I have so many women who work for me, and I’m better for it. They have taught me so much about myself and their vision on life, I’m better for it.
I’m also in a lesbian relationship and that has been one of the most loving, supporting, nurturing relationships of my life. My mother is the hardest on me but I know she’s my number one fan, she pushes me, and challenges me all the while keeping her empathy and compassion for me at her core.
My legal team, is 50% female, she’s the fiercest female I’ve ever met and downright the most intelligent human I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I run everything by her, she’s also my non paid CFO and has literally saved my business.
Both logos of Harless + Hugh and The Public House are female icons, because they are female owned and mainly operated by females. My kitchen staff is female, my manager at the cafe is female and my lead bar trainer is female.
What women bring you inspiration?
My mother brings me so much inspiration. She turned 64 this year and she just started a small flower farm last year. She has renovated a 3,000 square foot home with my father and turned it into an airbnb. She still dreams, loves life and constantly wants to try new things. She is the biggest dreamer and romantic I know. As a kid, constantly being around that inspired me that it was ok to carve your own path and to never stop dreaming.
Do you have any resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
I have an amazing legal team that I bounce literally everything off of.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
I feel like I am a constant student! Right now The Public House requires me to be in the kitchen due to staffing and I am really excited about that. It has pushed me to an area that I’ve had to learn from the ground up. Creating recipes, training kitchen staff, costing, ordering, you just put your head down and forget about the rest of the world when you’re learning something new. I’m also really curious about drawing / sketching right now. I love to travel and I’d love to be able to sketch up some of those memories of places I’ve seen. My dad is a longtime fly fisherman and my girlfriend bought me a fly rod last year for my birthday. He re-teaches me every summer how to cast and we always catch and release our fish. This year I’d love to learn how to fillet and cook it riverside over a campfire.
What are some of your favorite places in Bay City?
My absolutely favorite place in all of Bay City is Carol Park. It’s designed by the same guy who designed Central Park in New York City. Some of the most beautiful homes in the city line the permitter of the park. My parents used to take us there as kids and it’s a really special place any time of the year. Second to that, I love all of the marinas Bay City has. The Saginaw River runs through the middle of the city and marinas dot the shoreline, also a very head clearing space to spend an afternoon. Our Downtown also has such amazing character. Most of the buildings are in the same condition as when there were built in the 1800’s. I love walking the couple blocks that make up our quaint city, taking in all the little architectural details.
What's coming up for you?
Currently looking at two different properties to open a boutique hotel here in Bay City or an old school Motor Lodge an hour north of Bay City. I absolutely love hospitality and it has been amazing doing it with cocktails and coffee and dabbling with Harless + Hugh Loft, but I’d like to take it to a bigger scale and really curate someone’s lodging experience.