Kwatika Canty barely had time for a brief chat Wednesday morning.
Canty, a barista at the newly opened Oliver Gospel Roastery in downtown Columbia, had her hands full filling coffee cups for customers, including members of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce and S.C. first lady Peggy McMaster, wife of Gov. Henry McMaster, at the roastery’s grand opening on a 37-degree day.
“It’s been wonderful,” said Canty, who has worked at the roastery since its soft opening five weeks ago. “It seems like we get more and more people each week.”
Canty is a resident of Toby’s Place, an extension of Oliver Gospel Mission’s outreach program for homeless men which serves women and children and opened on Two Notch Road in 2017. Her job is one of three full-time positions created at the roastery, which adjoins Oliver Gospel at 1120 Taylor St., said Travis McNeal, Oliver Gospel executive director.
One hundred percent of every roastery purchase, including hot cocoa and a signature 1888 blend that references the date of the mission’s founding, benefits the mission. The roastery, in the works for several years, was inspired by the trip of an Oliver Gospel official to a like-minded ministry in California that was running a similar facility.
Columbia’s version, McNeal said, is way to “continue to highlight the work that Oliver Gospel does. We don’t want that to ever become something that’s just on the shelf. It’s right in front of people, and this is a good way for people to see that.
“The most rewarding part is to come in the store almost every day and to see the two ladies that both have now full-time jobs and to see their smiles and to know that their lives are being totally transformed.”
McNeal said the roastery has also created one part-time job and anticipates hiring more staff, eventually recruiting two shifts of workers to roast and bag coffee beans.
“If we really unleashed it in a big way, we couldn’t keep up,” he said. “We’re comfortable doing exactly what we’re doing right now. We don’t want to go too fast.”
McNeal joined Oliver Gospel in January, when the coffee shop consisted of the building shell and a roasting machine.
“I didn’t even know what that was,” he said. “But I was incredibly excited, because what I smelled was innovation. I smelled that something great was going to be done. I did not know what was going to be done yet. Even in the time of COVID and these months, this has happened.”
Columbia-headquartered Hood Construction Co. oversaw the renovation of the building, which now features a cozy room off from the main cafe space to relax or tap laptop keys as traffic zips by the large, street-facing windows.
“It’s about Columbia,” Carl Blackstone, Columbia Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said during remarks before Wednesday’s ribbon cutting. “It’s about changing individual lives. It’s about changing the community. It’s a special story to tell.”
The roastery is open from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. on weekdays, from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturdays and closed on Sunday.
“It’s been a blessing,” Canty said. “I really enjoy my job. Hopefully, it can lead into management experience and leadership skills. I don’t want to do this forever, but I love it for right now.”l