Like other regulars, the Rev. Neil McReynolds, was sad to see Downtown Central Perk close its doors back in October.
At the same time, McReynolds had recently started a Christian church, called The City Church, that needed a permanent home — and he couldn’t have pictured a better spot than his favorite coffee shop.
“I loved Central Perk and would've loved to keep it going with the church,” he said. “But they offered so many things we weren’t able to keep up and still focus on being a church.”
As The City Church took possession of the property, 226 W. 3rd St., Davenport, and held its first services in November, McReynolds hoped to someday return coffee to the site of Central Perk, which officially closed on Oct. 22, 2016. It opened in 2012.
And that’s just what he did.
Energized Cafe, a coffee shop inside the church that’s open 2-8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, has been serving pour-over coffees, lattes, smoothies and flavored energy drinks since for the past six weeks.
“I’m hearing from a lot of people that they’re happy to have coffee back here,” the 38-year-old pastor, said.
As for himself?
He’s happy to have another outlet to get to know downtown Davenport.
“It’s part of our mission as a church because we want to know our community and get to know people’s names,” he said. “It’s part of serving our city.”
'We do both'
Energized Cafe is a volunteer-run coffee shop with limited hours.
But McReynolds wants to see it grow.
Helpers include his wife, Ami, who also leads The City Church's children's ministry, and his two children, Ethan and Ariel, who serve as “volunteer baristas.” In addition, Ethan, 13, designed the shop’s logo.
The coffee comes from Mighty River Roasters, a custom coffee roasting company out of Eldridge, which also supplies coffee for Cool Beanz Coffee House in Rock Island. The espresso comes Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, a Chicago-based coffee retailer.
And the name?
“It came from the idea that we want people to leave here energized with a caffeine fix and also energized through life,” Neil McReynolds aid. “Hopefully this is a place where people leave with a smile on their face.”
As of about 10 days ago, the property’s windows are dressed to match the coffee shop. The outside of the property is packed with vinyl stickers relating to the coffee theme.
“When you’re driving down 3rd Street, we wanted to pop out,” McReynolds said of the signage. “It’s a fight for attention.”
It’s an even tougher fight when you technically have two storefronts, he said.
“We have this side as the coffee shop and the other is a church,” he said. “We want to help people put two and two together.”
Brennen Stewart, 18, another volunteer barista, said a lot of patrons are curious about the set-up.
“You hear a lot of, ‘What are you guys? Isn’t this a church,” he said. “I just say, ‘We’re a church cafe. We do both.”
Part of the confusion comes from Energized Cafe’s hours, McReynolds said. While the schedule is “sustainable for now,” he hopes to extend the shop’s hours and days in the future.
“The more we expand our hours to meet the crowd that loves their morning coffee, the more successful we will be,” he said. “Doing the 2 o'clock coffee is what we’re able to do now, but it’s not the long term goal.”
Plus, if the coffee house is successful, McReynolds hopes to start making 10 percent monthly donations to the Downtown Davenport Partnership.
“We believe in what’s happening here,” he said. “It’s our way of saying, ‘we believe in this community.’”
Meeting the community
For McReynolds, Energized Cafe is about more than coffee. It’s also about having conversations.
Along with ongoing open-mic nights, McReynolds hopes to host art shows, poetry readings and more in the coffee shop, what he considers "a community gathering space."
“I know it’s hard going to a church, especially if you don’t know a ton of people there,” he said. “The coffee shop is our way of meeting the community that we’re in. It’s truly the best way to hear the needs of the community."
He said the shop has already drawn in people who “have questions about the church.”
“People come in to get coffee and they start talking about life,” he said. “It’s been cool getting to know people that way.”
The City Church opened in January as a plant of the Vineyard Church on West Kimberly Road in Davenport, where McReynolds was on staff as a music director for five years. Before opening at the former Downtown Central Perk, The City Church had been holding services in the Redstone Room at River Music Experience in Davenport.
The mission is to reach people living downtown with an unconventional service time — Tuesday nights.
But that will soon expand. Starting Aug. 6, The City Church will offer Sunday morning services in addition to Tuesday nights. On some Sundays, visitors can expect to be treated to Hurts Donuts. Also, McReynolds hopes to get a food truck on site for the lunch hour.
“It’s a big transition,” he said. “But it's also another chance to reach people."
Still, McReynolds said the service is a small part of what The City Church does.
Offering a place for a cup of coffee, free Wifi and, maybe, a conversation.
"You can still feel lonely during a church service," he said. "But when you're around a table sharing a cup of coffee and chatting, you feel like you belong somewhere."
That's what Energized Cafe is about, McReynolds said.
"That's our mission," he said. "To bring purpose and belonging to people’s lives."