“Coffee is merely an excuse,” said Rob Tippey, the multiplication pastor for Fairmount Wesleyan Church.
Although freshly-brewed drinks sourced from the Abbey Coffee Company and food are an integral part of the business, Tippey considers The Branch a place focused uniquely on community. Comfy chairs and large tables accommodate groups or people working, while a corkboard with coupons for “sharing coffee, sharing life” makes the environment more like an interactive place.
The Branch opened two and a half years ago when Fairmount Wesleyan Church was looking to extend their ministry. The church family wanted to create a place that was not explicitly a church but could foster community. They decided a coffee shop was an inviting “third place,” meaning a place separate from the home and the church for people to spend time in community.
“We’re not in this to make money, we’re in this for the community — that’s our primary purpose,” Tippey said.
From there, the church purchased the building located at 108 S Main St. in downtown Fairmount. Because the original building was a license branch, the church went through a year and a half renovation process to bring the proper utilities and industrial, rustic decor to fruition inside.
The old license branch then became The Branch. Tippey said the name was two-fold: building off of the previous purpose, and branching into the community as a reminder of John 15. Because John 15 says Christ is the vine and the church are the branches, The Branch resembles a place to bear fruit according to Christ’s calling.
“We filled a hole in this town — that there hasn’t been a place that you could come together . . . We’ve seen a lot of fruit when it comes to doing what God has called us to do here,” Tippey said.
The Branch has become a space that houses much more than coffee. The shop serves regular customers from all walks of life, faiths and purposes. Tippey said some of the old license branch workers even come in once a month to catch up over lunch and coffee.
Barista Sarah Sallee, who began working at The Branch because she had always loved the environment, said the community atmosphere has always been one of the best aspects.
“I have loved the regulars, striking up conversations with them . . . and also just seeing people run into people they know,” Sallee said. “It seems like everyone is just friends, and (the community) is so easy.”
During their Sunday church service at 10:30 a.m., around 40 people gather for in-house worship and a streamed service of the main campus. Although the satellite service has only been meeting since February, Tippey said it has been amazing to see God show up.
On one occasion, Tippey brought in a tub for a baptism service on the coffee shop stage. Regular attendance doubled as 82 people gathered at The Branch to witness the public display of faith.
“The further we get into it, the more we want to affect this culture and faith of our town,” Tippey said.
Additionally, the loft, with large windows that overlook downtown, often serves as a meeting place for groups or clubs. During the James Dean Festival, the upstairs loft was reserved as a refreshment area for police officers. Most of the time, however, the loft is open for customers to meet with friends or work.
More recently, The Branch has added a food truck. The Branch already offers a cafe menu, but last summer they began taking their gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches on the road for the Fairmount park summer concerts. Then, The Branch invested in a bonafide truck to properly serve their customers at special events and on Thursdays in Marion.
All in all, the journey to this point for The Branch has been blessed. Tippey said the community has gone beyond what he could have expected. He routinely ministers to customers and employees, but many of the most impactful moments have gone beyond any planning.
For example, on one of the rare occasions Tippey was working as a barista, a woman came in who looked like she was on the brink of tears. As Tippey tried to be friendly and inviting, she ended up sharing that her granddaughter had just received a bleak medical diagnosis. The two then prayed together, and Tippey promised the church would be praying for the situation.
Around two months later, Tippey was coincidentally working as a barista again when the same woman came in. Defying all odds, her granddaughter had been healed.
“To be part of something like that (was) so awesome . . . we build a relationship with the town, and we’ve done that through people, which has been amazing,” Tippey said.
As The Branch continues to pour into the community, Tippey hopes people remember that they always have a place at The Branch. The space was designed to accommodate the various needs of the community with large and small tables, standing tables, children's play area, couches, conference room and loft. The drink and food menu also features a variety of different items for different tastes, some of which are seasonal, which can be found online.
In the future, Tippey looks forward to continuing reaching into the community and seeing how God will continue to use them.
“People (are) life — (they are) the most important things in our lives,” Tippey said. “We want to do what’s possible to create a space for people to be together . . . We want to foster that every step of the way, every way we can.”
The Branch is open Monday – Saturday from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Special events are posted on their Instagram and Facebook. Their food truck will also be on campus for Taylor’s homecoming weekend.