Not Just A Business…

As a graduate from Linfield College with a Business Management Degree, my education taught me that a successful business is a profitable business.  In this small rural town known as Sheridan, Oregon businesses face many obstacles that hinder success.  As the anniversary of our business draws closer, I was feeling pressure to reach the level of profitability.  I was feeling anxious about being successful.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I try to do everything prayerfully.  I try to trust that He will direct my business decisions in a way that is successful, but the “bottom line” wasn’t looking good.  In that moment of doubt and frustration I was feeling tempted to give up and get a “real job.”  I asked the question, “What good are we doing here anyway?” In the coming days, I had a revelation.  I believe the Lord showed me that Bridge Street Coffee House isn’t just a business.  It’s not just about selling a product and making a profit.  We are a community asset.  We are providing something of value that you cannot measure in dollars.

This coffee shop is a place where people come to feel a sense of peace and warmth when they walk through the door.  It’s where people come to feel important and valued.  It’s a place where people feel loved.  It’s a place where people feel a sense of hope and inspiration.  It’s a place where young people feel safe and encouraged.  I truly believe that this business has changed lives for the better.  I would like to tell you about a few of our regular customers and volunteers.

Bridge Street Coffee House is owned and operated by a nonprofit organization that focuses on positive youth development.  LINCS board members had the vision that the coffee shop could be a place where teens gain work experience and become better prepared for acquiring a paying job.  A young woman who was so shy she rarely looked people in the eye is now one of our top volunteers and has been given many responsibilities that are equal to a supervisory position.  Another young woman who most people misjudge as someone who is unintelligent and irresponsible has been given the opportunity to prove that she is very intelligent, hardworking, dependable, responsible, and takes initiative.  Young people come to us asking if they can work here in the shop, not because they will get paid, but because they have a desire to help out and they enjoy being here.  You can’t put a dollar value on that.

Many young people come here because they feel like part of a family.  They come here for guidance and for encouragement.  When life at home is rough, this is a place they can come for encouragement to keep going.  When school is overwhelming and stressful, this is the place they come for a sense of peace and perspective.  When their hearts have been broken this is where they come for a listening ear and a sympathetic hug.  On the other hand, when they have exciting news, this is the first place they come because they know we will celebrate with them.  You can’t put a dollar value on that.

A man who contracted MS in his early 20’s and is now restricted to a wheelchair comes here every day to connect with people.  He may have a weak body, but he has a strong mind and spirit.  Coming here allows him to engage and feel a sense of value.  Another regular customer became disabled in the prime of life and is no longer able to work and provide for his family the way he was used to.  Soon his visits became a daily occurrence.  He would say, “I like this place, I like the vibe.”  His spirits began to be lifted.  He was inspired again and started to consider how he could use his talents to contribute. He is now a regular volunteer in the shop. A woman in her retirement needed something to do to feel purpose.  She now volunteers approximately 15 hours per week making our daily soups.  When I express my fear that she is working too hard, she’s says, “Oh, no.  I needed this.”  You can’t put a dollar value on that.

A group of pastors meet here on Mondays to encourage one another and to discuss community needs.  A group of young mothers gather on Thursdays and they spend hours visiting and encouraging one another.  A few of our regulars are widowers.  Recently, one of them came into the shop and said, “I want you to know that I had no other reason to come to town today except to come here to the shop.”  Another day as I watched one of them leave, I thought, “If we weren’t here there would be no other place for him to come.  He needs this place.”  A young mother is struggling to keep her family intact as she works and tries to support a husband that struggles with addiction.  We can’t change her circumstances, but we can give her good coffee and we can hug her and tell her she is brave, she is strong, and she is a fighter.  You can’t put a dollar value on that.

Last, but not least, one of my favorite groups is the retired and semi-retired ,long-time residents that gather every morning from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.  Some of them graduated from Sheridan High School more than 50 years ago, others have lived here for decades.  Each of them has a story and each of them has a heart for this community.  They’ll always welcome any visitor into their circle.  They’ll discuss history, the weather, farming, education, politics, and health issues.  They’ll know the best places to eat and the shortest route to your destination.  They’ll tell jokes and poke fun at each other.  They’ll lament the loss of a loved one or the closing of a local business.  They are community.  You can’t put a dollar value on that.

A new concept in the business world is the idea of  the

“second bottom line.”  It’s the bottom line that shows how much you are creating value in your community.  I’d say we are knocking the second bottom line out of the park!

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