Grace Church is known for its modern-day preaching methods, youthful congregation and the freshest cup of coffee in Mount Pleasant.
When the church grew too large for its services held downtown at Ward Theater, Pastor Barry Flanders knew he had to make a change. He was able to purchase the building at 1217 S. Mission St., the site of the landmark Embers Restaurant, and transform it into a place of worship.
Flanders felt the space was missing something, and eventually TWELVE17 Coffee Roasters was born.
“We moved to this building because we needed more space,” Flanders said. “This is 26,000 square feet. I realized that we couldn’t use this space only on Sundays – it needed to be something more.”
With the help of a Grace Church member who is an interior designer, Flanders transformed the three-story building into a modern church, swapping traditional pews for folding chairs, adding bright paint, a variety of furniture, glass walls and plenty of comfortable seating.
The coffee shop and church blend into one large, welcoming, eclectic space.
Best known for it’s on-site roasting and brewing, the business survives thanks to the help of 18 baristas, who work as volunteers.
However, enjoying a beverage at TWELVE17 won’t cost as much as other coffee houses – everything is priced based on a suggested donation cost.
“We felt that since God gave Jesus ‘free-of-charge’ to the world, that we would offer a pretty good cup of coffee to our community for simply a suggested donation,” Flanders said.
The church makes nothing off of the donations. Instead, the money goes to sustaining the business and helping those in need.
“For those who choose to make a donation, we use 10 percent right off the top to help orphans, widows and needy people in the country of Myanmar,” Flanders said. “We use the rest to offset the cost of purchasing, roasting and preparing coffee and tea.”
TWELVE17 gets coffee beans from a farmer in Myanmar. Coffee is brewed one cup at a time using a pour over method, which, Flanders said, allows the coffee to be tasted in its purest form. A variety of loose-leaf teas, chai, hot chocolate and fresh fruit smoothies are also offered.
Flanders describes the feel of TWELVE17 as “low decibel,” something he says his customers value.
“This is a place where anybody can come and get some space and get freshly roasted and ground coffee, he said. “Nobody’s going to start talking to you. That’s not the point of it here. There are not a lot of places you can go to get some space, no strings attached.”
Kendra Delano, a Lansing junior, agrees that TWELVE17 doesn’t have the feel of an average coffee house.
“I love it here because it’s relaxed and doesn’t feel like a typical coffee shop,” she said. “I can come here and get work done or people just watch and relax without any interruptions. It’s a really open place for everybody.”
Paul Coffman, one of the visionaries behind Grace Church’s expansion, said TWELVE17 stands out from other coffee shops simply because its patrons understand the need for alone time.
“Every coffee shop is special in some way, but what’s special about this one is the decibel of volume,” Coffman said. “It’s a balancing act between a social need and a need for solitude in every coffee shop. What’s special here is that there’s an awareness of respect.”
Simply put, Flanders wants the community to know all are welcome at TWELVE17.
“People with limited funds don’t need to feel limited here,” he said. “We want to feel like a second home to people.”
TWELVE17 is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday mornings from 8 to 10 a.m.