The lives of employees Twanda Howard and Kwatika Canty have been transformed thanks to their new jobs at the Roastery. Courtesy of Oliver Gospel Roastery.
The door bell chimes as another Oliver Gospel Roastery regular comes through the door to buy a speciality coffee. The aroma of coffee beans is in the air as baristas Kwatika Canty and Twanda Howard welcome each customer with an infectious greeting.
The pair have much to smile about these days. The two women have emerged from homelessness and are working full-time at the Taylor Street business, an outreach of the adjacent Oliver Gospel Mission.
In the short time Howard has worked at the roastery, she has gained life skills, but also a bigger purpose.
“This is not just a coffee shop; this is a ministry. So, this gives me chances to go ahead and minister to people. If I have a word for you from God, I’m going to go ahead and deliver it,” said Howard.
The shop’s motto is “transforming coffee, transforming lives.” All of the proceeds –$40,000 since its opening three months ago – supports the Oliver Gospel Mission’s outreach to the homeless. The mission has been on Taylor Street for 132 years.
“I think everything we do here takes on that feeling and that culture down to the workers that work here,” said Oliver gospel Mission CEO Travis McNeal.
Howard started working at the roastery three days after its opening; she said the training was challenging but worth it.
“I had no clue, I was inexperienced. So, my supervisor, Mr. Lance, he’s the public relations director. He taught me everything I needed to know about making espresso,” said Howard. “I had no idea. I just knew how to drink it and how to order it.”
Canty has been working at the roastery since its grand opening in November.
She battled addiction and said she hit rock bottom in 2019. Through Oliver Gospel Mission’s program, she was able to overcome her addiction, she said. Canty recently accepted a scholarship to Midlands Technical College’s computer technician program.
“I’m excited about it. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” said Canty.
McNeal said people love the shop’s mission which not only supports Oliver Gospel, but also provides job opportunities to its clients.
“This is a wonderful expression of how much people care and want to see us be successful,” said McNeal.
Customers have the option of buying many different types of coffee or the beans that the shop roasts. The blends available are named after milestones of the organization. The 1888 blend, recognizes the year Oliver Gospel started serving the homeless population. The blend is described as smooth with notes of chocolate, toffee, and sweet fruit.
The shop plans to eventually sell roasted coffee beans online, but the expansion will take some time.
McNeal said that if the store were to launch online now, it would not be able to keep up with orders. By gradually preparing, it will allow them to hire more help and ramp up the number of beans they can roast.
“Once you step in those waters, you’ve got to be ready,” said McNeal.
While expanding online brings convenience for customers, frequent customer Kristen Foster said the roastery has become her favorite spot.
“I love the atmosphere. I think it’s just more of an uplifting place. Everybody’s really nice and kind, and I just love the mission behind the place,” said Foster.
Employee Kwatika Canty takes a regular customer’s order. The roastery has made almost $40,000 in three months alone.
The menu offers a variety of coffee drinks from frappes to cappuccinos and the profits benefit Oliver Gospel.
The roastery has artwork created by Governor McMaster’s daughter, Mary Rogers.
The roastery offers their own bags of roasted beans which are named after different elements of the organization.
The Oliver Gospel Roastery that opened on October 26 is located on 1120 Taylor St.