317 Coffee is Rooted in Christ’s Love, Passion to Support Missions
Yes, the expected products and related accoutrements inhabit 317 Coffee, 3424 Chicago Dr., Suite 101 in Hudsonville: coffee, expressos, hot chocolate, teas, sodas and smoothies are available for sale, as well as some goodies to munch on for good measure.
The shop is populated with tables and chairs, a padded church pew and a sofa where people can chat with one another, relax or surf the internet inside this cozy 1,000-square foot building where sunlight bathes its interior.
In a rush? A drive through window awaits.
Overt and subtle differences
But 317 Coffee harbors overt and subtle differences. Signs on the wall encourage patrons to "choose joy" while another exhorts them to "always pray to have eyes to see the best in people, a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgets the bad, and a soul that never loses faith in God."
The business' name alludes to Ephesians 3:17-18 that exhorts believers to be rooted and established in Christ's love.
The chairs have been repurposed, given new life, if you will, just as Christ does for those who embrace His saving grace.
Take a look at 317 Coffee's logo. The fragmented font represents people's brokenness and the circle symbolizes wholeness in Christ. The dotted half of the circle affirms people are unique made in God's image while the continuous line represents their need for fellowship and community.
The heart of 317 Coffee
A chalk board near the cash register declares what the mission of the month is. It goes to the heart of why 317 Coffee exists.
The coffee house was founded by Jeff and Kelly Irish who opened their coffee shop in January. The Hudsonville couple have three children: Addison, Sydney, and Isaac "Ike." They attend Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Jenison.
Kelly says her husband enjoys the spiritual gift of giving, and is the genesis of 317 Coffee.
"It was about two years ago that my husband said to me, 'I think God is calling us to do something,'" recalled Kelly. "My first thought was pay for our children's college education. We have one who just finished her freshman year at Calvin College and then I have another who will be starting at Calvin in the fall. Which is why I said to my husband, 'Pay for our kids' education.'"
Jeff however was going in a different line of thought.
"'I feel we need to do something to show our kids the value of hard work and to show our kids too that we can take an idea and watch it come into fruition,'" Kelly recalled her husband telling her. "I said, 'What are your thinking?' He said, 'I have no idea.'"
From nuts to coffee
They initially kicked around the idea of opening a nut shop but Kelly, who teaches AP English at Hudsonville High School, said they eventually dropped that idea.
"If I want my Bible verse on the wall, I'll have my Bible verse on the wall," said Kelly. "We knew we wanted to be a faith-based mission coffee shop."
The heart of 317 Coffee is a dedicated mission it financially donates to.
Customers can elect to have their total bill rounded up, which goes toward the selected mission. For June it's One 17 International. Previous ministries include Love INC. (May), ABWE (April), Single Parent Missions (March) and Pray America (January and February).
Jeff and Kelly also tithe 10 percent of 317 Coffee's profits.
Missions are selected from those that apply via 317 Coffee's website. Questions asked include to describe your mission, how the donated money would be used and the applicant's relation to the ministry. Final decisions are then reached after prayer.
"We pray about it," said Kelly. "As a team, we meet and here are the applicants. I think we have a mission of the month set through October. We've got them all lined up already, which is awesome."
Rooted and established
The words "rooted and established in love" harkens to a special relationship the Irishes have with Ephesians 3:17 and hence the reason for their coffee house's moniker.
"Everyone assumes (its name) is from John 3:17," said Kelly. "We as a family went through a hard time probably six years ago. That was when the Casting Crowns "Thrive" CD came out (January 28, 2014) and on the front of (the album cover) is a huge tree with deep roots. That stuck with me and my girls so we knew we wanted something being rooted."
Since neither Jeff or Kelly initially knew next to nothing about owning and operating a coffee house, a learning curve was guaranteed. But their resolve didn't waver.
"We were supposed to be open last summer," said Kelly. "And then God kind of chuckled at our plan and we opened in January at the heart of the school year. It's all in His timing."
Response from the community largely has been positive, said Kelly.
"We've had so many people say thank you for a place you can sit down and talk, a place where they can just be together," she said. "It's awesome to see different people praying together. Somebody said to me the Holy Spirit lives in this place and they said they can just feel it.
"Our Yelp and Google reviews are very positive," she added. "Every once in a while someone will write there's Jesus written all over the walls in that place. You can't please everybody. That's our mission.
"It's been a joy to pull this place together."
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