North Texas Daily

A fostering atmosphere

A fostering atmosphere

A fostering atmosphere
September 09
22:20 2013

Carina Aquino / Staff Writer

A few blocks from the Square sits a non-profit ministry coffee house where Dentonites can have study sessions, enjoy a cup of their favorite brew and browse restored furniture.

Zera Coffee Company at 420 E. McKinney St. is a local coffee house that is housed in the same building as The Back Porch, a furniture store that transforms donated pieces into something new, or like Zera manager Brian Buttrick said “from trash to treasure.”

Both stores are a part of Denton Freedom House, a ministry dedicated to transforming and assisting troubled men in creating a new life through a yearlong program focused on the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

“When we first opened up,” Buttrick said. “The main vision of the ministry originally was the furniture, and the coffee shop was just kind of a thing we thought would bring in some extra people to look at the furniture.”

Because of the growing number of customers, the store had to take on renovations in order to expand the coffee shop. Zera now incorporates furniture from Back Porch in the store, which is alternated frequently.

Though Zera features a small menu, customers can customize their own drinks and order food from a small list of sandwiches and snacks. The artisan-roasted coffee that is served comes from Coffee Eiland, a Dallas roaster that specializes in rare and unique singe estate coffee, according to the company’s site.

Customers can also purchase coffee by the pound.

Buttrick said he anticipates change and development for the name of the shop and the convenience of the customers.

“We’d definitely, at some point, like to do a drive-thru,” said Buttrick. “Maybe franchise out at some point.”

Live music may be in Zera’s future this fall.

“We don’t want to compromise the environment and the vibe that we have going on here,” said Buttrick. “So it’d be kind of coffeehouse style music, acoustic stuff, maybe some poetry readings to keep the context of this place. So we have to be very careful of what we do, as far as that.”

Buttrick said the family-type atmosphere focuses on the relationships and the community of Denton. Though the furniture you could be sitting in is for sale, the fact Zera is a nonprofit and strictly volunteer-based is what makes the coffee shop a big deal, Buttrick said.

Since its establishment more than three years ago, Zera has become a special place for many people. The good vibes emanating within the building have created a safe and comfortable environment for customers, Buttrick said.

For UNT psychology junior Tyler Johnson, the environment at Zera is what keeps her coming back.

“I had just moved to the Denton area and was looking for a nice and friendly environment where I could get coffee and work on some homework,” Johnson said. “Someone recommended Zera Coffee and I immediately loved it. The baristas are always friendly and it’s quiet enough for me to get work done outside of my noisy apartment.”

With the uprising of coffee shops within the Denton area, Big Mike’s Coffee Shop owner Mike Sutton said he doesn’t see any competition between each one, including Zera Coffee Company.

“We have two different markets. It’s a whole different market system,” Sutton said.

Due to the bustling location on Hickory Street, just outside of UNT’s campus, Big Mike’s is consistently filled with students seeking a quick caffeine fix.

“I have people who come here, who go there because they don’t have to worry about getting a seat and it can be very quiet when they’re there,” said Sutton. “In fact, some employees go there when they want to get away from people.”

But like Zera, Sutton put his coffee shop together “to be a community and so a lot of people could come and a lot of people could meet people.”

Community will remain to be a permanent staple in Zera Coffee’s reputation, Buttrick said.

“That’s one of the coolest things about this place,” he said. “The community that’s fostered here. We’re not just selling coffee, we’re building relationships and that’s one of the biggest things you’ll learn about this place.”

Feature photo by Kelsey Littlefield / Intern 

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