There are coffeehouses - quiet places to sip a latte, read a magazine, eat a pastry - in almost every neighborhood in the Kansas City metro. In the city's Historic Northeast, not so much. There are plenty of saloons in this area, which boasts the town's first upscale suburb, Pendleton Heights, but even the neighborhood's current gentrification hasn't lured in a bevy of new coffeehouses and art galleries...yet.
But 18 months ago, a clean-cut former Olathe resident, Dan Smith, moved his wife, Wendy, and four children to the area and renovated a two-story building at 3401 East Independence Avenue (it was formerly a second-hand store) to become Eleos Coffee House, where he roasts coffee, serves coffee and conducts Bible study groups every morning at 10 a.m.
"They're not in your face about the religion thing," says actor Ron Megee, who lives a few blocks away. "And the coffee is great."
Smith does consider the coffeehouse to be a component of his ministry ("We're here to make a connection with the people living on the street," Smith says), and the neighborhood has responded favorably: "They're very kind to the homeless people in the area," Megee says. In addition to studying the Bible, Smith and his staff (many are volunteers from his church) hand out backpacks containing nonperishable food items to the homeless customers.
The front room is small, boasting a single sofa, two booths, and three small tables. If you didn't know there was a religious connection to the place (Eleos, by the way, is the Greek word for mercy), you probably wouldn't guess as much just sitting there, sipping an espresso. In fact, it looks like any other coffeehouse in the city. Until recently, Smith served a menu of breakfast and lunch items similar to that offered by the Westport Coffee House, but wanting to reflect the ethnic diversity of the neighborhood, he has begun to offer more wraps, panini sandwiches, soups and nachos.
Eleos Coffee House is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.