Coffee shop ministry opens in St. Francis

Friday, September 19, 2003
Richard and Ingrid Garcia

ST. FRANCIS -- It's a coffee house ... a place to meet friends for breakfast, drink a cup of coffee and eat a warm-from-the-oven cinnamon roll.

It's a quiet retreat ... curl up with a cup of coffee, a slice of autumn- scented pumpkin ribbon bread and a good book in a cozy corner chair warmed by the sunshine.

It's a ministry ... a place to share a pot of coffee and a plate of biscottis with people who share the same wonders ... cares ... concerns ... about the meaning of life.

The owners of the new "Koinonia Coffee House" in downtown St. Francis, Ingrid and Richard Garcia, hope their new coffee shop satisfies the appetite of area residents for gourmet coffee and fresh-baked rolls and quick breads, and, at the same time, fills their own desire to minister to people and share their faith in God.

The Garcias hope to mix ministry with muffins.

The shop offers gourmet coffee, something Ingrid and Richards missed when they moved to St. Francis from Northern California a year ago. "Once in a while, we'd have to make a special trip to Wray for a cup of espresso," Ingrid laughed.

Ingrid managed a coffee shop for four years before Richard accepted the senior pastor's job at First Christian Church in St. Francis. Owning their own shop in California would have been cost-prohibitive, but in St. Francis, it was possible.

Ingrid researched coffees and coffee shop equipment -- hour after hour -- on the Internet. She and Richard made trips to Denver and McCook to gather their baking supplies. They're looking for local distributors for bulk ingredients.

Ingrid makes all the pastries and quick breads from scratch in the coffee shop's kitchen. Most of Ingrid's recipes are tried-and-true family and friends' favorites she has collected over the years. Others are favorites she's gleaned from her extensive collection of cookbooks.

"I couldn't find a vendor for the bagels we wanted to serve," Ingrid said. "So I was challenged to bake my own." Five recipes later, using friends as taste-testers, she hit upon the winner.

The biscotti was too expensive to ship in, Ingrid said, so she tried several recipes, brought in the taste-tester friends again and now serves fresh-baked biscottis.

Koinonia's brewed coffees come from San Francisco, Ingrid said. "We tried lots of others coffees, but these are richer in flavor, and not bitter." The gourmet blended coffees include espressos, cappuccinos, lattes and mochas. The Caramel Latte is a favorite, although the Mocha Blanca is a very close second.

"Cinnamon rolls are probably our best seller," Ingrid admitted. "They come out of the oven and onto the customers' plates," she laughed. "People wait for the cinnamon rolls ... hot out of the oven."

Other than the cinnamon rolls, Ingrid mixes up her offering of quick breads and pastries. "I bake a variety of items so our customers don't get tired of the same thing," she said.

Koinonia will, however, prepare special orders, Ingrid said, for meetings, school activities and parties.

Ingrid and Richard have been very pleased with and sometimes overwhelmed by the community's response to the coffee shop. Ingrid said customers have told her they are so glad the shop -- with the only fresh-baked, hot-from-the-oven bakery items in town -- has opened in St. Francis.

The couple plans to add protein drinks and start a chess club. They want to start a "Teachers' Tuesday," when they will extend their hours to 5 p.m., so teachers can socialize outside of school, Ingrid said. They're considering adding doughnuts, and soups and sandwiches -- and possibly authentic burritos -- for lunch.

As tasty as the quick breads are and as delicious as the mocha blanca is, Ingrid and Richard attribute the success of their shop to more than the coffee and pastries "This is a Christian-based coffee shop," Ingrid said. "We couldn't have accomplished this without the Lord."

She continued, "Before we opened, we dedicated the shop to the Lord, letting Him know it's His establishment." Ingrid chuckled, "We're just the laborers. Jesus Christ is the chief operating officer."

As much as Ingrid and Richard enjoy their coffee house, they know it offers opportunities to do more than sell coffee and doughnuts. "The coffee house is a ministry also," Richard said.

Richard hosts a Bible study at the coffee house, and he plans to start a Thursday evening gathering called, "Is That All There Is?," for area young adults, age 17-23. "They think they know their place in the world," Richard said, "but they're still searching ... for something."

The group will be very informal and nondenominational, Richard said, meeting at the coffee house for its neutrality. Richard may also hang up his shingle as a counselor. "We can talk about stuff over a cup of coffee," he said.

Richard and Ingrid agree they're having fun with the coffee house. Richard said, "We'll be happy if it carries itself, but we also want it to meet our desire to see fellowship and minister to people ... and create a feeling of contentment ... a feeling of, 'this is good'... "

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: