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Christians in Business: Coffee shop owners serve with a heart of hospitality

iconWhat started as a quest to find exceptional coffee turned into creating Icons Coffee, Inc. for the father-and-son business team of Rob Betts and son John Betts.

 “John and I visited a few shops. I’m a researcher by profession, and I was looking for higher grades of coffee and custom roasting when I saw an opening in the market for good, gourmet coffee,” Rob Betts said. “At the time, John didn’t even like coffee, but then he tasted the good stuff and realized there was no comparison.”

The father-son team formed Icons Coffee, Inc. in 2011, wholesaling the highest-grade coffee they could find. Independent shops loved the coffee but wanted to dilute it to cut costs. To preserve the quality of the Icons brand, the Betts seized the opportunity to open their own shop. The original store launched in October 2011 at Celebration Plaza in northeast Grand Rapids.

Josh Mosey, marketing manager at Baker Book House, frequented the Celebration shop with his writers group. At the time, the bookstore planned to include a coffee shop in the remodel of their East Paris store. A series of conversations between Mosey and Rob Betts about coffee shop operations led to a partnership between Icons and Baker Book House. The Betts closed the Celebration store in August 2012 to focus their efforts on the Baker location, which opened November 2012.

“From the very beginning, we wanted to create a shop that we would want to go to. That’s where the comfort food component comes in,” Rob Betts explained. It’s rare to find high-quality coffee and gourmet food in the same location, and Icons provides both. From the extra-large pulled pork sandwich to the fruity chicken salad sandwich to the soups, all of the food is made fresh in their kitchen from local sources. “We seek out the best product, and we offer that. If we discover something better, then we replace it,” Betts said.

Icons serves only the highest-grade coffee available from each country of origin. Each day features coffees from three regions of the world with a light, medium and dark roast. In addition to coffee, Icons offers hand-blended fine teas, frappes and bakery items.

Faith plays a large role in accomplishing the mission of offering exceptional service, product and environment for their guests. “At the end of the day, hospitality and service is shaped by our faith. Our calling in life as followers of Christ is to serve. That includes serving a hot chocolate with marshmallows to a five-year-old and treating him gently, to assisting a woman who came in with low blood sugar and getting her juice. We are to care for people beyond the norm, and not begrudgingly offer service because we have to. We do it because we want to and we want to make sure people are cared for,” Betts said.

Sometimes hospitality is a challenge when guests come in not feeling the best. Betts sees this as a form of ministry—to encourage them and respond gracefully, as opposed to just tolerating them. “Our goal is always to take a bad experience and make it good. Sometimes a kind word or serving people gently can help change their day and have a tremendous impact on them.”

Icons and Baker Book House offer a variety of in-store locations to settle in with a great cup of coffee and relax. Those looking for a quiet place to study can cozy up in the fireside room at the front of the store. A conference room with seating up to 40 is available for rent, and Icons can cater the event. The café area itself boasts ample seating with room to spread out and utilize the free wi-fi. Catch a book signing with a local author or enjoy many of the other Baker-hosted events.

Looking to the future, the Betts are looking to have multiple locations offering the Icons brand and service. They have a few requests and are picking sites carefully. Potential also exists for various lines of Icons products and more catering business. Whatever the future holds, it will certainly include a heart of service and hospitality.

At a Glance:

Name: Rob Betts

Family: wife, Felicia; son John (co-owner)

Business: Icons Coffee, Inc.

Location: Inside Baker Book House, 2768 East Paris Ave., Kentwood 49546

Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Phone: (616) 419-5500

Visit www.facebook.com/IconsCoffeeInc for specials

Author Information
Amelia Rhodes
Amelia Rhodes lives in West Michigan with her husband and two young children. She is a contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul's books Here Comes the Bride and Inspiration for Writers. Her essays have appeared on the Burnside Writers Collective and Catapult Magazine. Her first book, Isn’t it Time for a Coffee Break? Doing life together in an all-about-me kind of world encourages women to reach out to their communities and live an authentic life together.

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