Peg Gerould and Dick Choilis bring coffee to Miriam Rocke, with her dog Yahtze, during the grand opening celebration Saturday for Mosaic Tea & Coffee in the Fellowship Hall at Davis Community Church. Rocke is on the board of directors of the nonprofit cafe, which doesn't charge set prices but welcomes donations. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

Local News

A different kind of coffee shop opens

By From page A8 | November 13, 2013

Some devoted Davis folks have been drawing up plans for Mosaic Tea & Coffee over the past three years, putting their heads together to envision a coffee shop with some unusual features.

Among other things, organizers have devised strategies for operating as a nonprofit gift economy, facilitating job training and placement for adults with disabilities, and becoming an arts and music venue.

“It’s many pieces into a whole, which is why we named it Mosaic,” explained Elisa Stone, who co-chairs the project’s board. “A lot of people have poured their passion into making sure this is brought to life.”

She expects that by next fall, the Fellowship Hall at Davis Community Church, at 421 D St., will be transformed into a space that offers beverages under a “pay-it-forward” system. Community members gathered in the venue Saturday to celebrate the beginning of the final planning phase.

The café’s products — coffees, loose-leaf teas, smoothies and sodas — won’t be sold as a regular product would be. Instead, customers will be invited to pay whatever they’re able to.

“Pay-it-forward” refers to the additional amount someone may donate toward the next customer’s drink of choice, thus Stone’s notion of the local coffeehouse being “a community experience.”

The business plan for Mosaic takes into account that people generally spend $6 per visit to a coffee shop, and estimates an average donation of $4 per customer.

However, there’s also an acknowledgement that the donation amounts will vary greatly. Patrons may choose to donate only a few dollars, or nothing at all, as that is the nature of a gift economy.

Miriam Rocke, another Mosaic board member, spoke to the benefit of operating with a model such as this: “Since it’s not a for-profit business, we’re not really competing with the other coffee shops around town.”

Another distinction from most popular coffee franchises, as Stone and Rocke both pointed out, is that there is a focus on Mosaic being a family-friendly atmosphere.

And besides it being welcoming to kids and adults alike, an additional draw of the coffee shop is its intention to showcase local art and music.

“I really want this to become a relevant space in downtown Davis,” said Sharyn Orris, who is one of the leaders in the effort to have bands play periodically at the location.

Orris was introduced to the project through the DCC. Its main thrust — providing job training for individuals with disabilities — resonated with Orris, as her child was diagnosed with autism.

The idea is for Mosaic to allow people with a broad spectrum of disabilities to get experience in a work environment, as a barista or an events scheduler.

“Anyone coming out of high school or college may have trouble finding jobs, because you need work experience for one,” Rocke said. “That’s even more a problem for people with disabilities of various sorts.”

Stephanie Morris, a Sacramento special needs educator, is heavily involved in the job training aspect of the project. Job placement is an auxiliary purpose, intended to be achieved by establishing business connections.

“Hopefully, that will be a big part of it,” Morris said. “The Davis Rotary already meets in this space, and there are other business groups that already want to rent it for meetings. We’re looking at more ways to make those connections.”

The coffee shop, which would be open most weekdays during normal business hours, would be managed by two permanent, paid employees and a lot of volunteers.

There’s still a need for volunteer-driven work groups to help in the final phase of Mosaic’s implementation. Also required is a “wish list” of donated items to be used by the coffee shop. Those interested may visit teams.mosaictea.com for more information.

“Maybe it’ll be a good Christmas gift for Aunt Maude, who has everything under the sun, to buy her a case of cups from Mosaic,” Stone said, smiling. “We’re hoping for lots and lots of community support.”

— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett

Brett Johnson

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