Article and photos by Jerald Friedgen

People often think of Hamilton Street in Old Town Saginaw as a place to get a drink. Bars line the street and attract many people during the night, but alcohol is not the only beverage available in this beautiful part of town. The Red Eye coffee shop offers the thirsty a place to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee. Located between Hancock and Ames streets on the west side of North Hamilton, the Red Eye has been serving delicious coffee drinks for over 16 years.  Owner Arlene Maul prides herself on her shop and all it has to offer. 

The aroma of fresh coffee quickly seduces visitors entering the Red Eye. The brick walls display art by local artists. Tables are placed to give visitors proper space to relax and offer a quick shot to the counter to order a drink. This look, however, is soon to change because Maul has decided they need to update the place. "We want to have a more open space. The place has been always been the same, and I think it’s time to change," she explains. The Red Eye's owner also wants to invite artists to perform again, and more open space will make that possible. "It's difficult right now because the space is smaller, and a lot of the time people want to come in and socialize." 

After being born and raised  in Saginaw, Maul explored the world. She moved to Chicago when she was 19 years old and lived there for several years. She also lived in Tokyo for two years, where she spent much of her time in coffee shops, meeting with friends, relaxing, and doing paperwork. When in her late twenties she moved back to Saginaw, she assumed it would be only temporarily; yet she then fell in love and married. She introduced her husband to coffee shops, and in 1993 they decided to purchase the Red Eye from the previous owners.

Afraid that running a coffee shop mighty ruin her love for these venues, Maul hesitantly accepted the responsibility, but her fear was not realized.  Maul has loved every minute of running the shop because, as she explains, "I don’t really think we're here for the money. I think we're here for the part of life it brings," adding,  "We are paid in other ways than just money.  We have all grown to be friends here."

It is obvious why friends and patrons have frequented the Red Eye for many years: the ambiance and the affordable menu.  Not only is the Red Eye a place to enjoy an amazing cup of espresso, but it's also a place for friends to gather, or for a person to read a book or work in a relaxing atmosphere. It seems that Maul has created the type of environment she loves.

With offerings ranging from frozen coffee drinks to just a regular cup of joe, the Red Eye has something for every coffee lover. Maul is most proud of the espresso drinks. The staff has been trained to brew coffee to Maul's expectations. Her employees use a handbook, written by Maul herself, to ensure the quality of the coffee served, and although the shop has not competed lately, the Red Eye once took third in a national competition for its drink-making skills.  The Red Eye also offers some smoothies and snack items like muffins. The drinks are reasonably priced, and though Maul says they have only raised prices twice before, with the cost of everything else going up, so will the prices. "It's not going to be $50 bucks for a cup of coffee; our prices are still going to be reasonable."

Maul expects her staff to please the regulars and newcomers alike. "We can accommodate to what a person is looking for," she says. Her staff offers samples to people who are new to the shop. "My staff is very familiar with the people who come in. Most of the time if they see someone familiar, they can make the drink without asking what they want. The other day one of my staff made two drinks for a new customer to see which one he would like." So when you are looking for an affordable cup of coffee that is made with tender loving care by an attentive staff,  you have to look no farther than the Red Eye.

Business hours are: Mon-Thurs. 6 a.m. – 11 p.m., Fri. 6 a.m. – 12 a.m., Sat. 7 a.m. – 12 a.m., and Sun. 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.

© Jerald Friedgen, 2009