GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new café connecting veterans and other community members will soon take shape in the heart of Grand Rapids.
Nonprofit Has Heart is teaming up with the city, Madcap Coffee and Ghafari Associates design firm to transform the historical building at Veterans Memorial Park into a nonprofit coffee shop with a retail space and outdoor patio seating for up to 20 people. The partners hope to formally break ground on the project in November.
“It’s going to be an inviting place where the local person can walk down to the park, read the names on the monuments and have a cup of coffee and see the art by veterans,” Has Heart founder Michael Hyacinthe said. “An inviting space that welcomes everyone to experience the freedoms that our veterans have fought for, like a good cup of coffee in a park. Because we know there’s certain places in the world that you can’t go to and have a nice cup of coffee.”
Coffee has a deep connection for Has Heart. Hyacinthe founded the organization in 2010 when he sat down with a designer over a cup of coffee.
Has Heart partners veterans with designers who collaborate one-on-one for two days to come up with a concept that captures the veteran’s story. That design is then packaged onto products, building awareness, providing validation and funding future veteran experiences within the organization.
Hyacinthe says so far, Has Heart has worked with close to 110 veterans nationwide to share their stories through art; about 75% of them live in Grand Rapids.
Has Heart repurposed the vacant building at Veterans Memorial Park years ago to showcase veterans’ artwork from the program. The organization started pursuing plans to make it a formal café and retail space for the program before the COVID-19 pandemic reached West Michigan.
“We wanted to have a more permanent existence in that park, so that’s when we said ‘Let’s go create this,’” Hyacinthe said.
Has Heart plans to purchase equipment from Madcap Coffee, which will also train the café’s five to seven employees. Hyacinthe, who will be a manager, said the goal is to employ as many veterans and veteran families as possible.
“Veterans don’t serve by themselves: Their spouses and their kids serve with them. When your loved one is deployed you have experiences, something emotional and physical as well,” he said.
Hyacinthe says since Has Heart is a 501(c)(3) organization, whatever is sold in the new space will go back to supporting veterans through art and employment.
Hyacinthe said that so far, Has Heart has raised $250,000 in donations, with help from the Wege Foundation, Pfeiffer-Lincoln, the Frey Foundation, Terrapin, Kent County Veterans Services and the West Michigan Veterans Coalition. Hyacinthe said Home Depot, Consumers Energy, the DeVos Foundation and others have also supported the project.
The largest share of support came from the city of Grand Rapids, which previously approved another $250,000 for the project and later dedicated more funds to the project, according to Hyacinthe.
“They’re passionate about this — the building and the space and the purpose of what we’re doing,” he said.
In all, the project will cost about $800,000.
Has Heart will lease the building from the city. Has Heart has identified a contractor for the project; city commissioners are expected to vote on the proposed construction bid during their Oct. 18 meeting. If all goes well, construction on the space would start later this month. Hyacinthe said the goal is to open for Memorial Day.
“We want to acknowledge those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and one way to do that is to continue to support those who made it back and inspiring the community to join them… and hear their stories,” Hyacinthe said.
Find out more about Has Heart’s mission and how you can help at https://hasheart.us/.