Sedgwick residents seeking that jolt of caffeine in the morning got a new outlet over the weekend, with the opening of The Meeting House (507 N. Commercial Ave.) on Saturday.
At first glance, the new business offers the standard fare you would expect to see at coffee shops (i.e. lattes, espresso, pastries, etc.), but owners Damon Young and Jeff DeGraffenreid hope to offer so much more to the community with their new venture.
"For me, the big thing was to get people together, figure out 'what are needs here that we can address,'" DeGraffenreid said.
Not only is The Meeting House a coffee shop, it is also an established non-profit, with the intent of filling several other roles in the community. Along with meeting the morning beverage needs of citizens, ownership stated the business also seeks to to be a cultural outlet, provide enrichment programs, be a hub for community resources and help develop a thriving downtown area.
Currently, the work of DeGraffenreid's wife, Kelley, is displayed along the walls of The Meeting House and the space also has a stage that they hope to utilize for performances in the future. The Meeting House has also partnered with the Kansas Leadership Center of Wichita for some upcoming classes and is seeking to encourage the utilization of resources in a non-traditional setting as well.
"Maybe they won't go into a church as much anymore asking for help," Young said. "Maybe they won't go into the city building and ask for help, but what if you got them in an alternate space that they could just see the help that was available?"
Offering that alternate space was a discussion that started a few years ago between DeGraffenreid and his wife, Young and his wife (Kate) and Paul and Angie Nicholson. As talks continued, Young admitted he would think about the idea often during his runs through the local business district.
Seeing the available spaces, Young was certain creating a destination like the one the partners envisioned was a possibility. Jointly opening a functioning coffee shop (with no previous food industry experience) and a establishing a non-profit at the same time was a learning process, both Young and DeGraffenreid admitted. Hiring a couple of managers —Jake Ulrich and Emily Bebermeyer—in December helped accelerate the timeline to get the business ready to open.
Perplexing as the endeavor might have seemed at first, Young noted it was surreal to have customers at The Meeting House on Saturday, especially given all the work that went into transforming the space as the businesses got closer to becoming a reality and delivering on all of the owners' intentions.
"The return on investment for us individually, and for our donors," DeGraffenreid said, "is 'how do we help the community?'"
"When Jeff started telling people we're going to start a non-profit coffee shop," Young said, "people's general response was, 'is there any other kind?'"
Inspiration for The Meeting House came from Mead's Corner in Wichita, an effort of the United Methodist Church to serve that community and bring people of all different backgrounds together.
Providing an outlet for youth who may not participate in sports after school was at the forefront of Young's mind when establishing the non-profit, but DeGraffenreid said it is truly intended to bring all members of the community together.
"My ultimate hope is that this space can be a catalyst for people who want to transform the community," DeGraffenreid said. "So, whatever that looks like to them, to us as a community, this can be the space to do that."
Hours of operation for The Meeting House are 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3:30 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday. A grand opening for the business will be held on March 11, with local entertainment and an expanded menu to be offered as well.