Intentionally putting a coffee shop in an economically depressed neighborhood may not sound like a good business decision, unless you believe a strong cup of coffee has the power to change lives.
“We saw how relational coffeehouses were, so I wanted to be in an area that kinda didn’t make sense to open in,” says Dan Smith, who owns Eleos Coffee House on Independence Avenue.
Eleos Coffee is a serious coffee shop — and the home base of Smith’s nondenominational ministry. Baristas here are uniquely qualified to pull a decent shot of espresso, as well as offer compassion and a helping hand to others. Bible study is held at 10 a.m. weekdays at the coffeehouse, and monthly prayer gatherings take the gospel to the streets.
Meanwhile, Eleos Coffee has a second coffeehouse-ministry opening in Detroit this month.
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Forging a meaningful relationship with the needy and homeless in the Northeast neighborhood has not been easy. “It was a collision of worlds,” Smith says, “but I wanted a place where different cultures and economic communities could intersect in the middle of chaos, and maybe some beautiful things could happen.”
In January, the coffeehouse got a makeover in hopes of attracting more metro-area coffee lovers to stop by to try the direct-trade coffees Smith roasts in the back room every Wednesday. While they’re there, he hopes they’ll check out the sandwiches, breakfast wraps, soups and homemade pies that round out the menu.
Smith buys beans from Passionate Harvest and Kapeh Utz, and plans to start working with a farmer cooperative in Guatemala. He also has a following with schools and churches for his Eleos Blend.
“Right now, we’re the roaster of the Northeast, but we aspire to be a significant piece of the coffee industry,” he says. “We don’t want to be a soup kitchen. We want the business to be rock solid.”
▪ Eleos Coffee House, 3401 Independence Ave., 816-231-3401, eleoscoffee.com