Around 2 years ago God spoke to me while I was on a cruise ship headed towards Jamaica. I was in the ship's library sitting in a little pod-like chair reading a book when I felt like Jesus Himself placed an idea in my head. The idea was to start a coffeehouse on the west side of Cincinnati.

This coffeehouse would be different than other coffeehouses, but I wasn't quite sure how. I simply knew that it's main objective would be something other than the almighty dollar.

When I returned home I began sharing the story of what God had pressed into my brain and heart. It seemed I was not alone in my far-fetching dream. Over the next year several other people felt it pressed upon them that we as a church, Vineyard Westside, should start some sort of coffeehouse on the west side. People who would never know each other's stories were being united by a single strange idea.

Several months back a woman named Fran came to our leadership team with an interesting proposition. She told us that she owned a bar on Glenway Ave. that was up for lease again. She had been coming to Vineyard Westside for a while and for some strange reason, God spoke to her about not letting her bar be used for destroying families anymore. She told us that if we were willing to provide the labor, she would provide the funds to transform that bar into whatever we thought would be better. It was clear that the coffeehouse was going to happen.

And it is happening. This will be Refuge Coffeebar:


While this old bar was in horrible shape, we've come together as a community and began the transformation process to turn it into something beautiful. It sits on the corner of Glenway and Ferguson. It was blue and the foundation was damaged. There were cracks running all over the outside of the building, but we have since repaired those and given it a paint job. Soon, the name Club Octane will fade away into the land of the lost with so many other pubs and dives.


Inside we've got big plans. We have created a business plan that is different to say the least. Refuge will be what we are calling a "Biznistry", that is, a business-ministry. There are lots of details involved, but the main point is that Refuge will not take a profit. The money we make in this place will go back out into the community of Cincinnati's west side.


There has been a lot of work that's taken place. We have gutted the entire venue. The sub-flooring even had to be ripped up as it was beginning to rot. Concrete also had to be poured to level everything out. We've started to frame lots of things out at this point. This will be an internet bar with free wi-fi for all the lap-top peeps. We are also looking to have free computers to use set up for the people of this community.


This will be the stage area. We are looking to have lots of live music in this place. We are also toying with the idea of holding a saturday night church service here...something...unchurchy.


Our goal is to offer something different to the community. There are all kinds of ways to get into trouble in this particular area, but there aren't very many safe places to go and just be. This will be a place to just be. We're also looking to offer community classes such as; cooking, reading, life skills, computers, karate, bible studies, etc..


Here's the new wall behind the bar being framed in where there will be lots of menu items. We are interested in offering the best coffee in town and we'll be accomplishing that through a local roaster called La Terza. We're also going to serve snacks, sandwiches, and whatever else we feel like's a different game when you're not just looking for profits.


This is a little room toward the back of the building that will be used as a library / bookstore.


She's still a little rough looking, but you should have seen it at the beginning. Here's one of the several downstairs rooms. Food storage, office space, classes, etc.. could be held here.


We are so excited about this project that it's hard to express. We have been entrusted with something and we're expecting God to do something amazing with it. This coffeehouse is located in what society is calling a "declining area of Price Hill". We'll see about that.

Refuge 2

32 waggish utterances thus far...:

Twinmommy2boys said...

I've been reading for a couple of weeks, found you off of Pioneer Woman. Just wante to say what and awesome idea. I look forward to reading how it turns out.

Starwoodgal said...

Can't wait to see the finished project.

Debbie said...

God has great ideas dosen't he? Keep us updated on the progress.

Karen said...

Your passion and commitment to people just chokes me up. You’re a good man, Ryan, and you inspire me to do good as well.

scott d said...

that's my hood, bro. i was wondering what was happening to that old place where people used to get into so much trouble. kudos, sir. if there's anything you think i can help out with, let me know. music, money, etc.

scott at impactwest dot com

Cindy said...

Hey...I'm a former Underground volunteer (ask Dan) and I have done some 24-7 prayer room stuff. I am sure you have oodles of people to bounce stuff off of but if I can be of any help let me know.

This is a great thing for the city and the kingdom.

Erin said...

That's so awesome! What a great idea ... If only that sort of coffee shop was really on every corner!

Bitty said...

I've had La Terza coffee - the Over the Rhine blend!
It's spectacular!

kris said...

wish you were in my neck of the woods... great idea! Can't wait to see it in business!

Tiffanie said...

That's pretty cool. I love it when God drops little ideas into your heart/soul and then shows you how to work it out in real life.

Trinity said...

We had something like this for a long time in Grand Rapids, Michigan... It changed so many of our lives. It was a business/ministry aimed towards the teens of our city. Through the courage of several people and the volunteer efforts of many, we kept it alive for years.

I'm so happy you're doing this. You're in for an amazing adventure.

Mary said...

My mom grew up on Harris Ave. on Price Hill...she's no longer with us, but I know she'd love what you're can I donate funds to help you achieve this dream? I'd volunteer time, but I live out of state.

DanThoms said...

Speaking of Refuge... would you happen to have any files that I could have. Maybe something with the coffee cup. I'm pretty sure I know the font.

ps. I will vouch for Cindy :)

Anonymous said...

Oooo, I'll be sure to visit when it's finished... hope it turns out as awesome as you plan it to be.

DO post bunches of before/during/after photos, yes?

(Kinda stumped as to how you'll keep it going indefinitely if you don't make any profits off it... sorta defies the regular laws of Economics...)

Valarie said...

This is going to be great! Can't wait to see what God has in store. :)

Marianna said...

WOW...I am in awe over this....I will pray for you guys that it becomes a great success and people are able to go there for...refuge because it will be a stable environment for anyone seeking solace. :^)

KG said...

Hey Ryan - found you months ago from Pdub and have been checking-in at my leisure.

This sounds fantastic and I wish you the utmost success. This is an interesting idea/concept that may be of interest to you and the coffee shop.

We have these awesome QT gas stations here (GA) and each one has a sign (I believe it's a picture of hands holding or something like that) but it represents that station as being a SAFE PLACE.

This is how QT & Safe Place are described:
The company (QT) works with Safe Place, an organization dedicated to helping youth in trouble, to provide a safe and non-threatening environment for run-away or youth in trouble on the street. Store employees are mandated to provide the youth with something to eat and drink, while "a volunteer is called to pick them up at the store and take them either to get professional help or to a place to stay until their situation can be resolved." QuikTrip donates five percent of its annual profits to various local charities including those that provide Safe Place volunteer training.

Just an idea that perhaps you can use your coffee shop as a "safe place" too.

Best wishes

Cindy said...

Thanks Dan! :)

Andrew said...

sup, I have some experience with networking computers together and running cable for networks. Do you have plans on how your going to do all of that. I'd be willing to help if you need it.

Helen Ann said...

I am always amazed at this coffee house phenom...5 years ago, Denny and I discussed a place like this we wanted to call the "Joshua Club". The dream remained on paper only. Then a couple of years after that we discussed a coffeehouse again with a couple of other friends who felt inspired the same way. We even looked at a storefront on Glenmore - ironically just a few doors down from the WWC building. Nothing came of it but I somehow crossed paths with another girl who had the same vision. We met at Front Porch and discussed it - there were a number of folks she knew of who also had the vision. Then I learned that Zube had the same vision and he had talked to Fran then you said you also had been given the idea. It was just this windfall of "God wants this to happen!" It may have taken years, but I am so excited to see Refuge coming to fruition! It's sooo cool! Thanks for the pictures!

kimmyk said...

very cool and how generous of her.

i love the fisheye that you used. i am seriously becoming of a fan of that lens.

Holly said...

This is the most exciting thing I have read about all week. Thanks for sharing! :)

vixin13 said...

What a wonderful idea, I'd be there with bells on..if I didn't live in Australia!!.you're fantstic and I love reading your blog.

dorothy (vicar of vibe) said...

Thanks for posting at Creative Chaos.
I love when God give big hairy callings to people. This is awesome.
Have you read Mark Batterson's I'm sure you have.
Blessings on you and yours.

Jen said...

This is so funny! I found you a couple weeks ago on Pioneer woman, too, and have been following your blog ever since. What's so funny about it is we've actually just started a coffeeshop just like yours- not for profit and the desire to make it a hangout place where people can come, and also providing entertainment at times, although ours isn't quite as grand as yours. We started almost two years ago, and finally opened about 3 weeks ago. It's a long, difficult and sometimes dicouraging process, but it the end it's so worth it. It's amazing the difference it's made in our community already. I really pray God's blessing over you guys and what you're doing. Keep us updated- it's interesting to hear of someone who's going through the same process with so many similar goals.

Michelle said...

Excellent! If I'm ever there, I'll drop by!

Not Too Old said...

This is awesome, a true testament to the power of the Holy Spirit. If I'm ever in Ohio, I'll make a point to visit.

Andrew said...

Wow, i had went there for about 6 weeks and had no idea what the idea behind the refuge was. It saddens me I wasn't able to stay in that area. I forsee an awesome place to go visit when I visit or return to stay, though... God is working great things at VWS, and feel proud you all are hearing his voice and following His will!

and.. thanks for the invite to that party at your inlaws (hoping you remember me, lol)

Kelli said...

That's really wonderful place, I wish I lived near Cincinnati so I could give you a hand.

God speaks to us in strange ways, doesn't he? Both collectively and independently, it seems.

God bless you and your work, I will read you often, you are inspiring.

Kristen said...

Love your blog. We went to college in Cincy, lived on Glenway. We used to attend tricounty vineyard. Now my hubby runs a ministry in SoCal called The Refuge.

Love your heart for this ministry. Looking forward to hearing more about it.

.justin said...

the awesomeness of the ministry you guys are doing aside, i absolutely love your pictures.

are these taken with a "fish-eye lens"?

[i'm not sure the proper terminology.]

or was this effect done in post-production?

thanks for the tip.

keep up the good work!

Ryan Detzel said...

Justin: These images were indeed taken with a fish-eye lens. It can capture a 180 degree viewing's pretty awesome.