By Becca Eis | Echo
When writing on his experience with coffee bars in Milan, Italy, Howard Schultz, former Starbucks CEO, said, "I was taken by the power that savoring a simple cup of coffee can have to connect people and create community." Taylor students across campus have adopted the phrase "coffee date" into their everyday vocabulary and have integrated these intentional times of conversation into their schedules. But what would it look like for a church to connect to its community through coffee?
This is the question Fairmount Wesleyan Church sought to answer almost two years ago when they began brainstorming on how they could better connect with their community. They realized that downtown Fairmount, Indiana lacked a place to connect, so they made plans to own and operate a coffee shop.
In May 2017, The Branch opened its doors, serving food and coffee to the community of Fairmount, with hopes of expanding their outreach efforts later on. The first two months the shop was open, it was run by volunteers. Since then, The Branch has hired 25 employees. The name is twofold: the building used to be the town's license branch, and Fairmount Wesleyan wanted to encourage its congregation to use the coffee shop as a tool in "branching out" into their community.
"We also wanted a place that would help push our people, the church people, out, and by giving them something they could do and volunteer and everything," said Rob Tippey, discipleship and first impressions pastor at Fairmount Wesleyan. "That's probably been the biggest effect, is what it's done within the people of the church and how it's changed them to think outward, more than they ever had before."
Taylor students have discovered The Branch and have found value in its mission.
"Something that I love about The Branch is that they have a board where customers have prepaid for drinks or (desserts), written them down on a card, and anyone who wants something can use one of those cards!" said junior Sarah Wright. "It's a really unique thing that I think reflects the business of The Branch. It's completely for the community."
The board was originally intended for those who might not be able to afford food or coffee but has expanded to include cards with specific names or people in the community, from veterans to firefighters.
Beyond coffee, The Branch serves their community by simply offering the space they have.
"They have some really good food and drinks, but what really sets it apart is the unique community space upstairs, which includes a conference room and some desktop computers that are free to use," said junior Alec Downing.
The upstairs area includes a private room that is sometimes used by a counselor and allows for more confidential conversations. The space is also used to host the meetings of Main Street Fairmount, an organization that is also working to better Fairmount. Recently, The Branch had the opportunity to host the Fairmount Police during the James Dean Festival.
The Branch's mission statement is, "A place for the community to enjoy coffee, food, and conversations while empowering personal, social, and spiritual growth." Their current goal is to continue to get people in the door, which will allow them to establish classes in financial planning, parenting and other topics relevant to the community. Additionally, they are hoping to begin hosting a church service at The Branch next fall or spring.
Learn more about The Branch by visiting its storefront at 108 S Main St., Fairmount, IN 46928 or online at thebranchfairmount.com.