HARRISONBURG — On Monday morning, Amanda Miller Garber stood outside 2 Court Square in downtown Harrisonburg with a wide smile.
She was looking at Just Love Coffee and Tea, a new store, which opened its doors for the first time Monday with help from Miller Garber and others in Harrisonburg’s religious community.
“We firmly believe that business can, particularly small business, can change the world and can be an instrument of healing and hope for our community,” said Miller Garber, founding pastor of RISE United Methodist Faith Community.
The prison population in the Friendly City has continued to increase, and the profits from Just Love Coffee and Tea will go toward building a reentry program to support ex-prisoners and help them acclimate to life outside of jail, she said.
Just Love Coffee and Tea sources its coffee locally and sells a variety of flavors, including Colombian dark roast, Guatemalan and Sumatra blend light roasts.
The shop also sells a wide variety of teas, from earl grey to peppermint and even some decaffeinated teas.
The Just Love Initiative, which is the benefiting reentry program, will have goals like transportation or therapy, said Adam King, associate minister of formation at RISE.
“Whatever we do in this support program, we want it to be person-centered,” King said, adding that exact objectives are still being determined.
Leaders of Harrisonburg churches Otterbein United Methodist, Vision of Hope United Methodist and RISE came together years ago, King said.
“We began working on some ideas on how to work with folks who are coming out of incarceration,” he said.
The idea for the business went through many forms, from bakery to cafe, he said.
Eventually, the group learned that 2 Court Square would be available for rent and took the opportunity to open a coffee shop.
In the future, some ex-prisoners may work at the business to help with people and business skills, but as of now, the only crew member for the store is Grant Serrels, of Bridgewater, who serves as manager and head barista.
“The idea is to bring one person in at a time,” Serrels said. “We’re going to have a team of people with the Just Love Initiative be a mentor and guide for this one person.”
However, the business is just in “Phase 1,” King said. The phase will give the group a chance to adapt to daily business operations.
Though now open, Miller Garber and King said they were planning a grand opening celebration sometime in October.
“Who knows exactly where all this will go — where the path will lead,” Miller Garber said. “It’s just so beautiful to know that it’s open.”