SOUTHWICK ≠Sr. Pastor Jeff King of Christ Lutheran Church believes in building bridges in one's community and a recently launched endeavor has received a "wonderful response" from the public.
Visitors to the church campus on College Highway can now enjoy a bevy of soups, salads, smoothies, specialty sandwiches and fresh bakery items at The Daily Grind Coffee House and Caf . The caf is open to the public from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
"The caf serves as a community hospitality center," King said during an interview with Reminder Publications.
Though there are more than 70 Daily Grind locations across the country, this is the first location in the Northeast.
Visitors to The Daily Grind can enjoy a fireside ambiance or garden-view seating outside. Wi-fi service is also provided for patrons. Amenities also include a conference room that is free of charge for local businesses and community groups, complete with a wide screen projection unit for presentations.
Of course, coffee takes center stage at The Daily Grind and there are more than 50 flavors to choose from, as well as specialty espresso lattes, cappuccino and hot and cold tea varieties.
King explained that the mission of the church is to connect with the community at large, and when church leaders discovered The Daily Grind franchise concept, they made a trip to its headquarters in Virginia to learn more.
"We had a great rapport with the owners and share their same values," King said, adding he was impressed with their commitment to valuing people and communities.
"We're excited to become a part of the community,"Ed Chapman, co-founder of the Daily Grind, said in a prepared statement. "One of the things that distinguishes us from other coffee house franchises is that we look to contribute to the community and become a part of the fabric of our neighbor's lives in every city and town in which we operate."
According to Chapman, Daily Grind is selective in approving franchisees and seeks business owners who can understand and implement the dual importance of Daily Grind's community minded mission and long established reputation for quality.
"We look for people who understand that Daily Grind is as much about community and taking care of people as it is about providing ambiance, fresh products, and a great experience that invites customers to keep coming back."
In keeping with the mission, King noted that all proceeds raised in August will benefit Habitat for Humanity's house-building project in Pittsfield.
The Daily Grind has a staff of 12, and King noted that he has a "great staff, very loving and friendly," which fits into the overall concept of the caf . "They love to be here," he added.
That was evident during a recent afternoon's visit as Brittany Zotter of Southwick served customers all with a wide smile and cheerful demeanor.
"Everyone should feel comfortable here," said King, adding, "it's our gift to the community."
The caf is located in the original church building and congregation members had approved "several hundred thousand dollars" for the project to move forward more than three years ago.
King said the caf was fashioned as a destination and added the casual, comfortable atmosphere speaks for itself.
Among the many offerings awaiting patrons include the soup of the day, chili, salads, panini sandwiches on herb-crusted flat bread, and specialties including "Banana Bob," "Salad Stuffer," and "Big Dog." Veggie wraps in a spinach tortilla are also popular fare.
For youngsters and the "young at heart," The Daily Grind also offers peanut butter and jelly and grilled cheese sandwiches with chips.
King added that healthy and organic food options are at the top of the priority list for menu items.
"All produce that we use is also locally grown," he said.
Zotter noted that staff start baking at 5:30 a.m. and on most days, patrons can find a wide assortment of butter croissants, muffins and scones, cinnamon buns, bagels, cookies, brownies, pound cakes, gourmet dessert bars and gourmet desserts by the slice.
From the moment one walks in the door, you can feel the welcoming mat embrace you. King noted that during the reconstruction phase for the cafe, he encouraged his congregation members to write their hopes and blessings for the endeavor on the walls which would eventually be covered over with paint.
"When you walk in you are literally surrounded by love and blessings of our church members," King said.
Ron Clark of Suffield, Conn. was among the patrons enjoying a cup of joe on the afternoon of Aug. 13. Clark notes he plans to stop in at least once a week when he's in town to buy gas and added he eventually expects to try every coffee variety.
"It's a nice coffeehouse," said Clark, adding, "it's a perfect place to stop in for a wide variety of items and to talk to friends."
Unique touches dot the 3,500-square-foot caf which includes oversized soft seating, a roomy conference room, a wall of pastries, salads, fruit salads and coffees, and bags of coffee that can be purchased. There are also beautiful wall shelves that showcase a variety of mugs, tea pots, coffee grinders and caramel syrups for sale. The caf can seat 50.
King credits Kathyrn Elias, the church's director of creative arts, for the "beautiful d cor" of the caf .
Catering services for up to 300 people can also be accommodated, either on the church campus or at one's home or office.
King encourages area residents to consider a drive to the cafe, since it's "a great place to unwind from your daily grind."
King added that not only will patrons have a good time while they're at The Daily Grind, but they can also rest assured that 100 percent of the proceeds raised will help local charities at the same time.
For more information, visit www.clcsouthwick.org.