Richland coffee shop cites high overhead, ends four-year run

A Richland coffee shop known for serving good coffee and supporting good causes will close its doors at the end of the month.

Sharehouse Coffee ends its four-year run Oct. 30.

The shop near the intersection of Keene Road and Queensgate Drive is an outreach ministry of Bethel Church. It’s known around the Tri-Cities for being a relaxed place to sip coffee with friends while supporting a culture built on giving to those less fortunate.

“I think it’s a big loss for the community as a whole. It’s a bummer. I’m sure someone else will open there but I don’t know anyone else who will be able to duplicate that same mission and feel and spirit,” said Jonathan Dickey of Richland, a loyal customer.

Each quarter, Sharehouse donated a portion of its revenue to a different charity.

Nonprofits supported in the past include Grace Clinic, Union Gospel Mission, Tri-Cities Pregnancy Center, Jericho Road Ministries, Heart for the Fatherless, the local chapter of Relay for Life and World Relief.

Others supported were global charities championed by local residents and employees, such as this quarter’s recipient, World Orphans.


Challenges prompt closure

Financial difficulties prompted the closure.

“Overhead expenses were very high and a big chunk of that was the rent,” said Libby Hoye, Sharehouse general manager.

The original business plan was that Sharehouse, which opened in February 2012, would become self-sustaining, operating as a not-for-profit business — but it wasn’t to be.

A percentage of Sharehouse’s revenue went toward the selected nonprofits, whether or not Sharehouse was profitable, and that was a considerable amount, said Steven Wallace, executive pastor at Bethel Church.

“This was a painful, painful long decision. One is because it’s a business and at  the end of the day if it doesn’t pass the financial filter, it isn’t sustainable, and the other is that it’s a ministry; it’s a way of loving the community and partnering with the community,” he said.

Bethel Church’s eight elders, a group which oversees a budget of millions of dollars and a congregation of several thousand people across three campuses, “painfully wrestled with the decision for many months,” Wallace said.

Another challenge Sharehouse faced was its location, Hoye said.

Though Keene Road is a busy thoroughfare it isn’t always easy to turn into the strip mall where the coffee shop is, Hoye said.

“Traffic is so backed up there so people hesitate to get out of line and it’s not easy access out of the parking area. If you counted cars, there’s tons of flow traffic, but to get in and out for morning coffee was really tricky,” she said.

The shop’s closure affects 15 employees, two of whom are full time.

“The employees are obviously a big concern because it is backed by a church and we want to care for our people,” Wallace said.

He said Sharehouse reached out to other coffee shops in the area and a number of employees set up interviews.

And “we’ve actually had other coffee shops contact us, which has been really sweet,” Hoye said.


Customers mourn

Customers are sorry to see the doors close, Hoye said.

“A lot of our customers are sad. We’ve been trying to cultivate a community place and also a place where you have to do the coffee piece well, too,” she said. “We’ve had such good feedback from our customers lately on quality and consistency so it’s not only a place they come for relationships but a place to come for their coffee.”

Dickey is one of those longtime regulars who appreciates the coffee, mission and ambiance Sharehouse is known for.

The self-described extrovert said he’s familiar with all the coffee shops in the area because he works from home as a programmer for a nonprofit technology company and enjoys getting out of the house and working in coffee shops.

“I moved to the area four years ago and right away I learned Sharehouse was unique,” he said. “Their mission focused on community and they were very welcoming.”

They knew his favorite coffee (cappuccino) and asked about his family.

He said there are plenty of other great coffee shops in the Tri-Cities — but no other has all the combined features Sharehouse does — quality coffee, enough room and a good feel, he said.

Several groups from homeowners associations to the Girl Scouts have used Sharehouse’s free meeting room for monthly or weekly meetings.

“The community really appreciated using that,” Hoye said. “They’re going to miss it.”

Sharehouse began with an idea that sprang from a campaign called NExT, a church-wide initiative that set aside a significant amount of money to think outside the box to be a positive influence, both locally and globally, Wallace said.

“It was way of meeting the needs of the community, outside of the church model, and wanting to partner with meaningful nonprofits,” he said.

Sharehouse also sold gifts such as repurposed jewelry, crocheted hats and soup mixes that benefited nonprofits.

Hoye is hopeful lessons learned at Sharehouse can still be of use to the community.

“We’ve learned a lot and it was a really good idea in a lot of ways. I hope it inspires others to come out and achieve something similar,” she said.

Sharehouse Coffee will honor its longtime supporters and customers during its final days with a variety of special events, live music and giveaways to “say thank you to all our regulars,” Hoye said.

Oct. 30 hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Follow the coffee shop on Facebook for updates.

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