Local Coffee of East Ridge owners Debbie and Danny Lance stand behind the bar at the new shop.

In addition to creating a local place for people to gather and build relationships, Local Coffee of East Ridge aims to help provide education and medical assistance to people around the world.

A portion of sales of its True Brue coffee — a blend provided by local roaster Mad Priest — goes toward mission work in three countries. Those dollars help provide medical and educational supplies for children in Kenya, help support a girls' home providing education in Honduras, and benefit local missionaries building churches in Uruguay.

Two years ago, shop owner Danny Lance, also the pastor of True Life Church, started selling the coffee out of the lobby of the church, then located in Georgia on Mack Smith Road. The church moved in June to East Ridge, into the space behind the coffee shop, a separate business that opened in September.

"For a lot of people, church is not a natural meeting place. We created a place where we can engage with the community on neutral ground," Lance said of the decision to open the shop.

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Local Coffee of East Ridge's 2,000-square-foot interior offers plenty of space for patrons to gather or spread out. A separate 1,000-square-foot space connected to the shop is available free of charge to East Ridge community groups and organizations.

He grew up in East Ridge, and said Local Coffee is intended to be a place where people in the community can come together and have conversations. Located to the side of the 2,000-square-foot coffeehouse space is another 1,000-square-foot room referred to as the "East Ridge room," which is free for East Ridge groups and organizations to use.

Filled with couches and tables with mismatched chairs, the space is large enough to give people room to spread out or come together in groups.

"It's a very inviting, relaxing, comfortable environment," said co-owner Debbie Lance, Danny's wife. "People feel very comfortable and make it their own."

They said they want to make the shop not just a place to gather for coffee, but a place for the arts. Local Coffee's "art wall" offers artists in the community a chance to display and sell their work. Currently on display are works by a local photographer and an East Ridge High School student.

Eventually, they'd like to hold an after-school music program for kids in the space, said Danny Lance. In the meantime, they're establishing themselves as a place for the arts through events like "A Cup of Christmas," a night of live Christmas music being held Friday, Dec. 21 starting at 7 p.m. That night, they'll be taking donations for the East Ridge Needy Child Fund.

In addition to coffee, the shop also offers breakfast pastries and desserts, and soups and paninis will be added to the menu soon, said Lance.

Local Coffee of East Ridge is at 5330 Ringgold Road and can be reached 498-6060.

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