Towanda Martin dreamed of having a coffee shop thirty years ago. As a little girl, her mother would have several young women sitting around the kitchen table. There was the smell of fresh coffee and a baked treat to enjoy as the group shared conversation and laughter.
“When I became an adult, I thought I want that – a place where people can come and feel safe and encourage people but it didn’t happen at my house out in the country,” said Towanda.
When she was around 30 years old, she dreamed and drew a diagram of where things would go in her imagined book store and coffee shop.
In April 2005, Pastor Towanda started Agape Fellowship in her home. Six months later the Fellowship moved into a small building on Main Street in Ingleside. Six months later the group moved to the current location, 2291 Main Street. Agape Fellowship celebrated its first anniversary in a new home.
In 2011, Agape Fellowship appeared to be dying. “We still had people but couldn’t pay our bills, including the mortgage payment,” said Pastor Towanda. “I felt like a complete failure as a pastor so I was ready to run to wherever I could get to!”
Towanda had told her congregation about her long ago dream of a coffee shop. As the group helped sort and pack to empty out the building, people were saying, “This would be a good place for a coffee shop!”.
“It was like the Lord just dropped it in me – it was like a light came on”, said Towanda. “Oh, my goodness! This would be a perfect place for a coffee shop!”
There was no kitchen and the only running water was in the bathroom. The congregation started building a kitchen and donations began flooding in – dishes, furniture, appliances.
In September 2012, Agape Fellowship included coffee and muffins at no charge. It was a place where community people would just come and hang out.
“It’s Momma’s table!” ~ Towanda Martin
There were volunteers from church but usually Towanda was there by herself daily. She said her body began rebelling and her husband needed knee surgery so the coffee shop was closed. She told the regulars, if her car was there, the door was open.
Agape Fellowship continued without the coffee shop being open. In 2015 Rebecca Hillis began attending worship nights and different events and she said she felt drawn to be there.
The preschool teacher thought, “Oh, my gosh! I could totally do this all the time!” Rebecca told Towanda, “I just really feel like I am supposed to be here to help with this whole process.”
“My thoughts were, bring it on girl!”, said Towanda. “I was thinking she would come and do music on Sunday mornings but that was Towanda’s idea not God’s.”
Eighteen months ago, Rebecca decided she needed to be there all the time to get a coffee shop ready to open. She resigned her preschool position and in June 2016 started working every day in the Agape building. She researched, designed, remodeled, painted and shopped. She studied and learned how to be a barista.
Towanda said Rebecca had the vision of what this was to be. I had the dream of the coffee shop but Rebecca had the dream of the décor and the mechanics of building a business.
“We set dates to reopen but they came and we weren’t ready,” said Rebecca. Then some large offerings came in to the ministries in December 2016 and some were designated for the coffee shop.
The final piece of equipment, an expresso machine, fell into place due to a generous donor and in March 2017 everything was ready – equipment, supplies and menu. Taste testing began and on April 8, 2017, Coffee N’ More officially opened.
Tuesday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. and Saturday at 8 a.m., Coffee N’ More is open with coffee, tea and pastries. Their biggest seller is a frappe with a shot of expresso. Rebecca will prepare your coffee specialty with Jessica Buchanan taking your order. Renee Hillis, Rebecca’s mother, and other Fellowship member volunteers can often be found helping.
“It’s common to come in, meet someone new and have a good conversation!” ~ Roy Adams
Often people hold business meetings around a table over their coffee or in the Quiet Room. This special room is available for anyone who wants to work on a laptop, read a book, have a private conversation, prayer or meditation.
Agape Ministries’ coffee shop is just the beginning. Pastor Towanda said ministry is the focus, but ministry can take many forms.
“Ministry doesn’t have to be pews and preacher and singing two songs out of the song book,” said the Agape Fellowship pastor. “Ministry is people and building relationships and encouraging one another.”
“We are just extremely out of the box as far as religion is concerned.” said Pastor Towanda. “We are about relationships. We are here to be a blessing, however that looks.”
Follow Coffee N’ More on Facebook, Agape Coffeehouse on Twitter and agapecoffeenmore on Instagram to see their pastry and coffee drinks as well as special events.