Coffee creates community vibe

Mugshots Coffee Company

(Sun Current staff photo by Chris Chesky)

Ben Saine (above, r.) knew he wanted to open a coffee shop someday. He and his wife Betsy worked at a Starbucks for three years and saw that customers who came in for their daily caffeine fix all held different views but got along. Saine saw community and that got him thinking, “Could a church connect?” Fast forward a few years.

Saine started sharing his vision with leadership at his church, Hillside, in Bloomington, Minnesota. Bryan Moak (above, l.), executive pastor, says the church had a passion to reach unchurched millennials, but wasn't getting traction with it. Hillside was experiencing rapid growth, but wasn’t reaching Normandale Community College, located next to the church. There’s also a high school located a mile away.

“Ben and Betsy had this passion to do a coffee shop,” Moak said. “The elders used Blackaby’s Experiencing God principles and just decided to see where God is already working. As it turns out, God was saying the same thing to both of us.”

Planning teams were formed and a business plan and vision designed. In March 2015, Mugshots Coffee Company officially opened, with a mission to connect with millennials while providing an amazing cup of coffee. The community response has been nothing but positive.

“All of our baristas are Christians, and they explain who we are to the customers who ask,” Saine said. “The community is really accepting of what we are trying to do. I think people like that we support other things as well. With the profits we make, we donate a portion to Arrive Ministries, a nonprofit that provides holistic support to refugees and immigrants in the Twin Cities.”

The memorable name keeps people coming back. After testing a few names, Mugshots was the winner for its double meaning.

“It was the most positive and most negative. We did think of a mugshot of a criminal, but it really means your face matters,” Saine said. “And there’s coffee mugs. So it’s mugs and shots of espresso. The logo is a camera lens and a coffee cup.”

Mugshots staff are intentional about sharing their mission. As a result, Saine and Moak have seen people attend Hillside as a result of a simple interaction with a barista. One woman, a professional painter, helped get the shop ready to open. While Saine says she didn’t seem interested in the mission at the time, she and her husband came to Hillside shortly after Mugshots opened and have been attending ever since. That’s just one example of people who are excited for a church that’s reaching out in a different and non-threatening way.

“We have a box that people can either anonymously or, with their name, share a prayer request,” Moak said. “It’s growing pretty rapidly. We have about six to 10 every week.”

Saine recalls one of his baristas sitting with a customer. He offered to pray with her. She was open and couldn’t believe he cared enough to pray with her. The all-millennial barista staff are bold in sharing their faith with all ages.

"People who come in are diverse in age,” Moak adds.  “Although the design and the vibe is geared to millennials, we’re grateful all ages come and support the business."

Hillside Church has big plans for Mugshots, including developing a missional community and possibly partnering with a church in Stockholm, Sweden. Hillside has a relationship with Converge missionaries in Sweden who are interested in bringing the coffee shop model overseas. The plan is still in the strategy phase. As for the success of Mugshots so far, Moak and Saine couldn’t be happier.

“We want people to know they matter, and we communicate it in hopes it gives us permission to go deeper to pray and share the gospel,” Moak said. “And it’s happening.”

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    Point - Fall 2017

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