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Family’s new business venture in Willmar, Minn., has a higher purpose than just making money

Chris Davis, left, and his son, Nick, talk Jan. 17 about the development of their non-profit coffee house The Goodness in downtown Willmar. The Davis family is hoping the coffee house will become a center for the community to mingle and also be a part of the revitalization efforts for the city’s downtown area. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR — The former Northern Grounds coffee shop in downtown Willmar is about to come back to life as The Goodness coffee shop, a non-profit business with a religious goal.

The coffee shop will be owned and operated primarily by the Davis family. The father and son team of Chris and Nick Davis have owned and operated Famous Davis software and web design for several years.

The tentative opening date is March 4.

Most recently the Famous Davis office has been located in the former Northern Grounds location at the corner of Fourth Street and Litchfield Avenue in downtown Willmar. Famous Davis will be moving to another office in the same building to make room for The Goodness.

Chris Davis’s wife Vicki Davis will run the coffee shop along with daughter Carrie Olson and son-in-law Mitch Olson. They expect to have 10 to 12 employees, though hiring hasn’t started yet.

The coffee shop will operate like any other, but it will be owned by a non-profit corporation set up by the family. The board of directors will also include several non-family members.

The profit from the coffee shop will be used to support live music events on Saturday evenings and a video/discussion series on Sundays.

While selling coffee, soup, sandwiches and treats is the primary goal, the Davis family hopes to accomplish something else along the way.

“Our underlying goal is ministry,” Chris Davis said last week. The hope is that people at the coffee shop can develop relationships with “unchurched” people and invite them to church.

Famous Davis used the coffee house space to hold occasional weekend events last summer. “We would have people say, ‘Make this a coffee shop,’” Chris Davis said. “The more we thought about it and prayed about it, we decided it was a good idea.”

They hope to attract people from many different churches and watch discussions and relationships build, he said.

“We would like it to have a feel of community,” Nick Davis said.

When they had some weekend activities last summer, people who were in the downtown area stopped in to see what was going on. Nick Davis said he met a fellow cycling enthusiast that way. It was a good way to get to know people in the downtown area, too.

The Davises said they are pleased to be part of downtown and hope to see even more of it revitalized. “Part of me feels like we’re on this resurgence of downtown,” Chris Davis said.

The Saturday music nights will feature adult-oriented music, and they expect a crowd from their older 20s into their 50s. Expect to see acoustic sets or duos, they said, as that will fit better in the coffee house atmosphere and the space they have.

“We want people to be able to talk over the music easily,” said Nick Davis.

The menu for the coffee house will be “on the lighter side,” Chris Davis said.

Sandwiches, soups and salads will make up the bulk of the menu, and Vicki Davis has been working on some new recipes.

“I’m excited,” she said. Working at the shop after years of working at home will be an adjustment, she said, but she thinks it will be fun.

Some of the new recipes she’s tried out include a creamy vegetable, “the kids liked it,” and a potato soup with cream cheese that was popular.

Family and friends have been busy painting the walls in the former coffee shop. The walls are light to brighten the room and to prepare for displaying the work of local artists. New light fixtures are coming, too, to encourage a look of “industrial chic,” Nick Davis said.

The Davises are also looking for investors to get their nonprofit off the ground. Donations, large or small, may be made at

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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