In Bethel, there are a lot of places to get a cup of coffee: the grocery store, the cultural center, the fitness center, the hospital, or the AM Coffee & Espresso Stand. You can even fill up at the KYUK public radio station. But if you wanted to sit down at a coffee house, you had to drive to the airport. Not anymore. You can now enjoy a warm, caffeinated beverage in town at Bethel’s new coffee shop: Quyana Café.
The coffee house is just getting started. It’s located inside Bethel’s Evangelical Covenant Church along Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway, near Watson’s Corner.
Inside, barista Moreen Waska is making her favorite drink, mixing steamed milk, chocolate, and espresso into a warm, sweet mocha. A colorful chalkboard lists the other beverages available: Americano, chai, dirty chai, hot chocolate, latte, and steamer. The café also serves smoothies, and plans to add iced coffee drinks and Italian sodas.
Waska is learning to make all these beverages for the first time. Before being hired, she’d been unemployed for a year and saw the job post on Facebook. So far, it’s a good fit.
“I love working here. Nice people,” she said.
One of those people is her boss, Pastor Adam London. He says that the coffee house is meant to be a “safe and neutral space.” The purpose is to create something rare in Bethel: a place to sit and relax in a social setting that’s not work and not home, and where you’re not expected to drop money in the double digits, like at a restaurant.
“So you can come and enjoy some coffee, come and enjoy some friends, bring them along, have a meeting. We also do have some meeting rooms available, if anyone wanted to grab some coffee and go do a work meeting,” London said, giving a tour of the space.
The café is located in the church’s fellowship hall. There are a few folding tables surrounded by folding chairs and, of course, an espresso machine.
“We also have some fun things set up like carpet ball,” London said, walking over to a long narrow table with billiard balls set up on either end. He picks up the cue ball and rolls it across the table, trying to knock the balls the other player’s balls off the other end.
“If you’re good, it takes a few throws,” he said, as the balls tumbled and crashed. “If you’re like me, it takes a lot.”
On another wall stands a side-by-side basketball shooting game, where players have 30 or 60 seconds to make as many shots as they can.
“Just something to hang out and play, trying to create a real community space,” London said, picking up a basketball and making a shot.
The coffee shop continues in the direction set by the food truck the church began running this summer. It’s a silver trailer in the church parking lot, serving street tacos some weeks and gourmet hotdogs other weeks during lunch time. The best seller is the Alaska dog with reindeer meat. It also sells Kosher dogs and vegan dogs. The hot dogs come in three styles: Aloha style, with teriyaki sauce and pineapple; Seattle style, with cream cheese and caramelized onion; and nacho cheese style. London is also considering adding pizza by the slice to the menu.
But remember, this is a church, which makes the coffee house/food truck combo more than a business.
“It is a ministry,” London explained. “So we’re also trying to find people who need a job, who couldn’t get a job other places, who need a part-time, safe job.”
The Bethel Evangelical Covenant Church hosts a range of social justice programs, like the Bethel Winter House, providing a safe, warm place for people to sleep during the coldest months, and Friday Night Supper Club, offering a free, weekly meal to anyone who needs it. The Quyana Café builds off those programs.
“We do a really good job at this church in meeting people’s physical needs where they’re at, but we don’t do a lot of offering how do you get out of this system. So this is part of it,” London said. “We’re hoping this will expand to be able to hire more of those people who are regulars to those programs, to give them a job, give them a way out, to find their own home, own apartment.”
For one employee, that’s already happened. Pastor London says that the employee was living in her car when she started working at the food truck this summer and has now been able to afford an apartment.
Starting pay is an attempt at a living wage, beginning at $17 an hour, plus tips. All the revenue from the café goes to paying workers and buying supplies. Any extra funds support church youth programs.
”It’s been fun to dream and see it come into action,” said London at the end of the café’s first week. “And so we’re hoping people will come check this out.”
Quyana Café hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and customers’ first coffee is free with the sign up of a loyalty card. London says that customers will not be proselytized to.