Curving around the green gelato counter, my senses are enticed by the rich aroma of unique coffee blends and homemade dishes. Captivated by the colorful paintings illuminated upon the soft brown walls, the eye is drawn to the names of local artists, which appear on tasteful placards nearby.  Groups of people sit comfortably sipping from small espresso cups or traditional martini glasses and eagerly await the beginning of an event. At the other end of the café, laptops dot the spacious table tops of customers who are making themselves at home amidst their attractive lunch plates.

Wait—Am I still in Saginaw?

When the Magic Bean opened its doors in December of 2007, owner Lisa Kusey-Rechsteiner wanted to incorporate the best of her culinary experiences from around the world into the new café's ambiance. The non-corporate feel of a coffee bar in France or Italy, for example, were the focus of the Magic Bean's mission to provide our Tri-City area with "big city" atmosphere; however, Kusey-Rechsteiner also wanted to incorporate the small town attitude present in such café experiences into her new business' design.

"You could go in and ask for something or describe something, and if they didn’t have it they would either try to accommodate you or let you know that if they have enough requests for the item they will start to carry it," said Kusey-Rechsteiner.  Cities like Chicago played a similar role in cultivating the trendy yet comfortable setting, where gourmet dining, adult beverages, and delicacies like chocolate-covered Twinkies all appear on the same menu.

Along with creating such a gathering place, healthier menu options have long been a goal for the business. Kusey-Rechsteiner explained that healthier eating doesn't necessarily mean food has to be low fat or sugar free. "We try to provide as many items with as little preservatives as possible. We are making more and more foods in house, and we only use vendors who have quality in their ingredients," she said.

The delicious gelato served at the Magic Bean is a perfect example of this menu philosophy. Made with real cream, fruit, and flavorings, the dessert is a denser dish than traditional ice cream due to the special freezing process involved in its creation. Staple flavors like Tahitian Vanilla, Tiramisu, Mango, Mackinaw Island Fudge are always on hand, but there are also seasonal favorites. Pumpkin cheesecake will be featured in November, along with Chocolate Mint and other holiday favorites during the Christmas season. Gelato made with water and non-dairy ingredients, called sorbetto, is also available.

Food and drink items on the Magic Bean menu develop as a result of input from a variety of sources. First and foremost, "We want to listen to our frequent, loyal customers. If it can be done and it makes economic sense, we will try it," Kusey-Rechsteiner said. Some afternoons are also spent dreaming up new items with her team leaders Ryan Vennix and Stephanie Zeillinger. "Both of them are never fearful of trying a recipe I throw at them, even if it is a recipe that is a pinch of this and a dash of that."

In addition, upbringing has strongly influenced the café's menu choices. "My father is a retired chef, and as long as I can remember we did catering," said Kusey-Rechsteiner, who fondly recalls Christmas dinners and high-end catering of homemade Polish, Hungarian, and German dishes. The variety of menu options available, including breakfast and lunch dishes, makes the café a singular locale for day-long outings or business meetings.

Other amenities have nothing to do with food. Along with wifi access throughout the café, the Magic Bean offers an enclosed conference room where groups of up to twenty people can assemble. The flat-screen television within the café can be hooked to a laptop for PowerPoint, and a projector screen exists for larger presentations. For the younger set, a children's area complete with reading books and an X-box equipped with educational games and family-friend DVDs is also available. This variety of offerings for all ages may be what makes the Magic Bean a truly unique café experience and one that has been favorably integrated into the Saginaw community.

"The majority of what happens at the Magic Bean is the creation of the community and of the team at the Magic Bean," stated Kusey-Rechsteiner. A quick glance at the monthly calendar of events for the café, which features poetry readings, live music performances, beer and wine tastings, and charitable events, confirms this. The café has become a space for the ambitious to go, enjoy themselves, get work done, or even just impress someone new to the Great Lakes region.

Kusey-Rechsteiner is understandably proud of this, exhorting, "Saginaw IS a good place to live!" This positive outlook is stimulating amidst the economic doldrums that our county finds itself in during this state-wide recession. "There are so many things that go into opening or running a business during these times," says Kusey-Rechsteiner, "the most important thing is attitude!" After all, she encourages, "You spend most of your time at your place of work, so make the most of it!"

Calling upon her background in retail management (Kusey-Rechsteiner is also the general manager of Graff Chevrolet in Bay City) she is spreading the good word about the Magic Bean and Saginaw through the café's significant web presence on Myspace, Twitter, and Facebook.

The Magic Bean Café endeavors to the space where comfort and possibility coincide. It is located at 5789 State Street, Suite #3 in Saginaw, Michigan. They may be contacted for information about their menu, events, and services online at magicbean[at] or via telephone at 790-9495.

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