A historic property near the campus of Springfield Memorial Hospital is about to undergo renovations. Stephen “Mike” Donaldson and his wife, Kelly, have purchased 1001 N. First St., which most recently housed Gastro Grub before the café closed in February, and plan to open Yellow Bird Coffee House in the lower level.
The couple currently operate Yellow Bird Ranch, an urban farm three miles from Lincoln Memorial Garden off the New City Road blacktop.
“My wife and I are both retired from the Army, and we have a small ranch with honeybees, chickens, pot belly pigs,” said Mike Donaldson. “Throughout our military career we thought about owning our own business and actually explored some opportunities a couple years ago, then COVID hit.”
Kelly Donaldson works as a nurse at HSHS St. John’s Hospital, and Mike noted there aren’t many nearby options for coffee, leading to the decision to open a coffee shop in the medical district. “When this building came up for sale, we liked that it was close to the hospitals, and I’m a huge history buff.”
The property was built in 1890 by the C.A. Laramore family with a grocery store on the lower level and the residence upstairs. Donaldson said the couple plans to completely gut the upstairs and create apartments to rent through Airbnb while using the lower level as commercial space. The Donaldsons are calling the upstairs portion of the property the Laramore House in honor of the original owners and Yellow Bird Coffee House will occupy the lower level.
As far as a timeline for renovations, the couple plans on a busy summer. “We’re going to do the apartments first so the renovation noise doesn’t echo down into the coffee shop,” said Donaldson. “We’d love to have the business open by Labor Day weekend.”