In May, Michael Rice’s vision for Mad Priest Coffee Roasterswas mostly theoretical.
He and his wife,Cherita,taught English in India and got into the coffee business there.He also got to know some refugees and saw how working in cafés helped improve their lives.
So he wanted to bring that idea here. He wanted to use coffee as a way to empower area refugees by providing them with new or better jobs.
Now, that vision is taking shape.
Rice launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, got roasting equipment and found a space next toKoch’s Bakery on Broad Street.
“I was able to hire our first full-time refugee, and he’s been with us for almost three months,” Rice said.
The combination of a coffee shop next to a bakery is a good fit, he said.
Starting any business is a large undertaking, but Rice’s venture has additional challenges. He’s training his new employee in making coffee, serving customers and speaking English.
“In one sense, it’s hard … but at the same time, it’s not taxing in a negative sense,” he said.
And he sees a great payoff in the future because his new employee will ideally eventually be the person to take over training future refugee employees, he said.
Rice is selling wholesale coffee, but customers can also stop in and get a cup. There’s also a small space for sitting or hanging out, Rice said.
The business is open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
And Rice is hosting a grand opening/holiday party Dec. 28 from 6 to 10 p.m. at the 1900 Broad St. location.
The event is a chance for the public to stop by, get free beer (compliments of a sponsor) and hear live music. There will also be a food truck there.
Rice said it’s a chance to try the product and get to know more about him and his mission.
“It was never a question in my mind that it would happen,” he said of his business. “It was a natural progression, and it’s been good that people can tangibly witness what we were saying six months ago.”