CUYAHOGA FALLS: The cozy coffeehouse nestled inside Northampton United Methodist Church is intended to be more than a place that serves a good cup of coffee.
“When people walk through the door, we want them to recognize that there is something different about this space, that there is something different about the people who serve them,” said Karolyn Dunlop, the manager of The Root Cafe. “It’s not just about business in here. We actually care about people, and we want to bless and encourage everyone who comes through our doors.”
The nonprofit coffeehouse was established nearly three years ago to serve the entire community. Unlike most church coffeehouses that serve only church members and are open on a limited basis, The Root Cafe, which has its own entrance, is open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
In addition to serving coffee that is blended, brewed, pulled and pressed, it offers a build-your-own tea blend option. Light, pre-packaged and prepared foods and pastries also are available, along with a variety of carbonated and noncarbonated drinks.
Tea drinkers who order a pot of tea have it served on a china tray with a china pot and teacups.
“We want people to feel loved and special,” Dunlop said. “Because we’re in a church, people know we have a Christian foundation. But we’re not in your face with it. We love Jesus and want to share that love with others. We do that by caring and being a place where wounded people can come and unload, knowing they are sharing their concerns with people who care.”
The Root Cafe, at 852 W. Bath Road, also provides free Wi-Fi and public events, including poetry readings, workshops, music and comedy. A six-event series that focuses on child-rearing is currently being offered. The next session, called Educational Choices A-Z: Thinking Outside the Box for Their Future is 7 to 9 p.m. April 10.
The rustic-looking signs that can be seen from both Northampton and Bath Roads have helped direct people to the full-service coffeehouse. But most of the traffic has flowed in by word of mouth. Ben Pykare, of Cleveland Heights, learned about the coffeehouse last school year from one of his teachers at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy. (The teacher is a member of the church.)
Pykare, 18, is studying biblical languages at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He stopped by the cafe earlier this week, while on spring break, to catch up with high school friends.
“This place is like a landing pad for all of us when we come home. The Root has given us an opportunity to do some neat things — to meet up and study the word of God, to get to know each other better,” Pykare said. “The Root is a homey place that is much more relational than other coffeehouses. The people at the counter know you and want to know you. You never feel rushed. You can stay as long as you want.”
While at CVCA, Pykare established a group called S.O.R. — Slaves of Righteousness. The group, which still meets at The Root Cafe on Saturdays, includes students from various high schools throughout the area. It regularly attracts about 30 students.
“S.O.R. is based on Romans 6:18 — having been set free from sin, we have become slaves of righteousness,” Pykare said. “Our time together is a chance for us to discuss our faith and encourage each other to go deeper. We also encourage each other in life and just want to be there for each other.”
In addition to S.O.R., the cafe is home to Northampton’s student worship service, COLLIDE, which takes place at 11:10 a.m. Sundays, and other youth gatherings and activities.
The cafe also attracts other groups, including the Woodridge High School PTO, local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts leaders, home-schooling groups and Bible study groups from other churches. It also has become a spot for local business people, students, and parents and their children.
A special area of the cafe is dedicated to children, and includes a collection of children’s books, a train table, coloring books and toys. Bookshelves in other areas of the coffeehouse are stocked with donated titles. There is always an unfinished puzzle on at least one table, and board games are available for anyone who wants to play.
The comfy leather sofas, located in one of two gathering areas, add to the relaxing atmosphere that attracted a group of women from Stow Alliance church. The women typically have gathered every Tuesday morning over the past two years to encourage each other.
“We all live very close by and had seen the sign and noticed it was open to the public. We came in and liked it from the beginning,” Jeanne Linger said. “It’s a home-like setting and it has all kinds of drink choices. It’s just a comfortable place.”
The group of four women from Stow Alliance who met at The Root Cafe earlier this week all echoed their love for the lady at the counter who prepared their drinks: Kim Howdyshell, one of the 48 volunteers who keep it running smoothly.
Dunlop, the cafe’s only paid staff member, said the volunteers are the heartbeat of the coffeehouse. Volunteer opportunities range from barista to storage organizer.
“Without the volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to operate. They bless me and they bless our customers. We have even had some of the students who come in here as customers volunteer to help out. In that respect, we serve as kind of an incubator, training them and giving them recommendations,” Dunlop said. “It’s exciting to know that we’re building into the lives of people. We want everyone — the volunteers and the customers — to walk out of here feeling uplifted.”
More information about the cafe can be found on the Root’s Facebook page or by calling 330-928-9323.
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org