Manna Café Serves Generous Portions of God’s Goodness

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

mannaCutline No. 1-5Manna Café founder Craig Witcher: “Our goal is to be a blessing to the community and everybody who comes in.” The late afternoon chatter among customers is lively. Servers bustle back and forth to bring patrons sandwiches, soups and salads or refill cups with steaming coffee. Glasses and plates clink when tables are cleared. Manna Café, in short, has all the makings of a standard restaurant. Except it isn't.

Isaiah 55:2 and John 6:35 are ablaze on the 85-seat eatery's walls. The waitresses' T-shirts have printed on the back "serving goodness from God's creation." The for-sale merchandise made from around the world helps to support ministries near and far.

'Pieces came together'

mannaCutline No. 2-2Witcher displays some of the wares for sale at the Manna Market inside Manna Café. Owner/founder Craig Witcher opened Manna Café at 7 a.m. on Christmas Eve in 2013. Prior to opening the restaurant at 820 Forest Hill Ave. SE in Grand Rapids Township, Witcher never worked at or owned one.

Witcher's professional background is tax law. He currently is managing director of BDO USA's Family Office Services.

Even so, things happen when God is in it.

"The pieces came together," Witcher said.

"It was the spring of 2012. I was having breakfast with my wife and daughter at another breakfast spot in town and I just downloaded about 20 ideas about opening a place that serves amazing pancakes, waffles and French toast and has Scripture on the walls, and Scripture on the napkins."

Another pitch is coming

Inspired, Witcher plowed ahead, and eventually connected with Mike McKay who at the time, was assistant manager at Charlie's Crab.

McKay, said Witcher, had a personal revelation of his own when he had a rare opportunity to attend Sunday services at his church and received an up-close-and-personal message from a visiting minister.

"The visiting pastor had a prophecy and calls Mike out of the blue," Witcher recalled. He said, 'You tried to go in business couple of times and it hadn't worked out. You've got two strikes but there's another pitch coming and it's going to be a homerun.'"

The homerun: McKay is now Manna Café's general manager and head chef.

Manna Café has an intentional relaxing vibe.

Nature's colors

A softer hue of blue, yellow and green adorn its interior. Table tops are made of cherry, regarded by many as a "warmer" wood.


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"I realized we're replicating the colors of nature before we even thought about it," Witcher said. "Our slogan is serving goodness from God's creation. We were led to pick the colors of God's creation. It's restful and peaceful."

Asked why he believes God led him to open Manna Café and Witcher openly admits he's unsure.

"I don't have a definitive answer," he said. "I have some thoughts. I think one reason may have been in a world where God is increasingly not welcomed, in school, in commerce, maybe there needs to be a place where we say 'yes we can.' What other people have told me it's a safe place to come and pray. No one feels uncomfortable here. His name is on the wall.

"I personally think it was to help develop my faith. I was inpatient, egotistical. I have a very healthy ego. I think the third thing besides patience and humility is dependence."

Extensive menu

mannaCutline No. 3-1Manna Café is at 820 Forest Hill Ave. SE.Much of Manna Café's menu is made from scratch. The menu is extensive. Breakfast selections range from manna hash, to Jamaican jerk pork with poached eggs, to omelets, buttermilk pancakes, stuffed French toast, waffles and English muffin sandwich. Lunch includes classic griddle burgers, soups and a nice selection of wraps.

Hours of operation are 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Friday; 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday; and 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Sunday.

"Sunday is our biggest day," Witcher said, who attends Calvary Church on East Beltline. "I felt very convicted we should be open on Sunday, so many people who go out to eat on Sunday after church have a God-honoring place."

Handmade items for sale

Then there's the Manna Market. Displayed are handcrafted items from around the world sold on a fair-trade basis. Items for sale include jewelry, baskets, silk bags and wooden salad tongs and more.

Through the Manna Ministries Worldwide he co-founded, Witcher partners with other faith-based organizations to funnel the profits earned from Manna Market to help to support mothers through Pregnancy Resource Center's Cradles of Grace outreach; provide stipends to college-age girls in South Korea so they avoid unwholesome environments; provide microfinance entrepreneurs in Honduras, support an orphanage in Uganda and more.

"Our goal is to be a blessing to the community and everybody who comes in," Witcher said. "It's more than good food, it's a good attitude and just good service. That's what we strive to do. We're servants when you walk through the door."


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Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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