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Friday, June 19, 2020 -- West Central Coffee, located at 1006 Broadway, the southwest corner of Washington Boulevard and Broadway, is now open. Assisted with a City of Fort Wayne Commercial Facade Grant, West Central Coffee offers high quality, locally roasted coffee, specialty drinks and pastries. This follows a three-year renovation and restoration of the 120-plus year old mercantile building.

“It has been a long time coming, a lot of hard work by many people. We are thrilled to be ready to serve the community great coffee from Utopian Coffee, a Fair Trade coffee supplier focused on high-impact social projects throughout the world,” said Bruce Robinson, manager at West Central Coffee. Plans include inside and outside seating, a reservable meeting room, plus a back room with a stage nicknamed the “Blue Mountain Music Room.” Bruce was one of the original partners in Blue Mountain Coffee, which operated on The Landing on Columbia Street in the ’70s and ’80s. “We will eventually expand our food menu beyond pastries and cookies to soup and sandwiches. We will also be including live music. We are currently working on a recording and performance partnership with University of St. Francis’ Department of Music Technology,” Robinson stated.

“St. John Lutheran Church has been an important anchor for downtown Fort Wayne and the West Central Neighborhood not just for decades but for more than a century,” said Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry. “I am pleased the City could support West Central Coffee and its mission to bring people together over a cup of coffee.”

The building and neighborhood are steeped in history. The West Central Coffee property is owned by St. John Lutheran Church, which owns most of the city block, and has operated a church and school since 1853. Instead of a planned school expansion, the church closed the school in 2010 and the mercantile building set vacant. A new long-range plan was developed in 2011 that included ideas to turn the school and mercantile building into neighborhood space for a coffee house, a school of music and a community center for seniors. In 2015, the plan for the coffee house was resurrected and construction planning started in 2016.

St. John’s mission statement reads, “Fed and led by God, we live as a neighbor—in the West Central community, the City of Fort Wayne and all the world.” As a result, church members seek to love and serve their neighbors in a variety of ways, including participation in West Central Neighborhood Association events, Broadway business events like Art on Broadway and its own events such as free weekly community meals and partnering with nearby Wellspring Interfaith Social Services for a monthly ‘Kids Night.’ West Central Coffee will also offer ongoing opportunities to serve their West Central neighbors, such as a trash pick up day.

St. John’s pastor, the Reverend Paul Offhaus, said, “In the ancient world, people gathered around wells. While they drew the life-giving water that was essential to their daily existence, they caught up on one another’s lives and shared stories. Today’s coffee houses are our modern day equivalent. They are places to gather, to share stories, and to deepen relationships—all while enjoying a great cup of coffee, a shot of espresso or a specialty drink. In these unique times of physical distancing and social unrest, don’t you think such a coming together is more important than ever?”

The congregation is grateful to The Lutheran Foundation for awarding a $80,500 matching grant which provided encouragement for St. John to move forward. A $20,000 City of Fort Wayne façade grant was awarded as well.  An advisory board composed of individuals from the church and the community are overseeing the opening and ongoing operation of coffee house.