HOW A NINETEENTH CENTURY CHURCH BECAME OUR TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ROASTERY
It's no secret. The Apotheos Roastery and event space is pretty awesome.
One of my favorite features is the antique stained glass windows, first added to the building in the late 19th century. Back then, the building was still in use as a United Methodist Church, a public gathering place where various members of the community donated their time and resources to build something beautiful.
If you get close to the windows, which now frame our singular event space, you can still see the names of the congregants who donated the glass, and the dates when they were installed. It reminds us on a daily basis that there is a rich history to this complex, one that still informs our business philosophy.
Much like a community church, our coffeehouses have always been a gathering place—a shared hearth where people from every walk of life are welcome to sit and find solace in the company of their neighbors. But for most of our coffee-brewing tenure, we've served our customers from one of our Atlanta-area coffeehouses—not from a 19th century chapel. So how did we end up crafting coffee in a converted church? The story only gets richer.
Before Kennesaw was even called Kennesaw, it was called Big Shanty. In the mid-1800s, these parts were a hub for the fast-developing railroad. It was also a prime spot for military training due to its access to freshwater and transportation. Like any southern town, Big Shanty boasted several houses of worship, including a Catholic parish, a Baptist church, and a United Methodist congregation, where members prayed in the same spot where we now brew our coffee.
During the Civil War, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman marched toward Atlanta, stopping at Big Shanty along the way. At the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, Sherman's men were rebuffed by their Confederate foes, but were able to scorch much of the area as they left for Atlanta. Among the rubble was the First United Methodist Church, which burned to the ground as Sherman's forces pivoted toward Atlanta.
By 1872, when the war was seven years in the past, Georgia, like the entire South, took account of what was lost and what could be rebuilt. While the city's Methodists had lost their church, their Catholic and Baptists neighbors had been spared that fiery fate. Yet despite their religious differences, these neighbors knew there was only one thing to do.
That year, Kennesaw's Catholics, Baptists, and Methodists came together in the spirit of community. They pooled their finances, their resources, and their manpower in order to rebuild the Methodist Church—erecting the very building where our roastery now resides. Even today, the building stands as a reminder of what's possible when we work together.
As the decades passed, and as the Methodist congregation grew, the site continued to expand. Around the turn of the twentieth century, they added in those gorgeous stained glass windows. If you walk through the space, you'll find many relics from its history, including the stadium-style slope of the floors, the horsehair plaster on the walls, and the old-school pulley system that opens the windows.
The church continued to grow even into the 1970s, when they added a large Fellowship Hall that now houses our cold brew canning line. But as time passed, the Methodist congregation outgrew the space, and moved to a larger church in Atlanta. A smaller congregation took advantage of the antiquated space for a few years, but their membership ultimately dwindled. And by the early 2010s, the historic church became dormant.
That's when Dale Hughes came into the picture.
Now a co-owner of the Apotheos Roastery, Dale worked as a lawyer for years, specializing in real estate. But around 2012, Dale was ready to leave the legal and corporate world. He didn't know quite what he wanted to do, but he definitely wanted to make a difference in the Metro-Atlanta area he loved.
Pretty soon, Dale realized he could combine his expertise in real estate with Kennesaw's wealth of historic structures. Many of these antique buildings had fallen out of repair, and became a threat to the visual history of the region. So Dale decided he would adopt these buildings. He sought old structures in need of some love that could be revived for new owners. That's how he came to own what was once the First United Methodist Church.
As I explain in our first blog post, Dale offered us the church space as a location for our coffee roastery, and pretty soon became a co-owner in the entire venture. We then spent a year and a half preparing the space, installing the roaster, the canning line, the sleeving line, and all the requisite safety features. But this Apotheos Roastery is much more than just a coffee production facility.
The Best of Us
We offer tours of the space, where spectators can watch the entire process from beans to beverage in what was once the church's Fellowship Hall. Behind that, the Reconstruction-era chapel has been preserved as an intimate space for events of all kinds – weddings, showers, birthday parties, etc. We call this space The 1808, a reference to the height of Kennesaw Mountain, the highest peak in all of Metro-Atlanta. It's a fitting complement to the name Apotheos, which means "the peak of our craft" – the very best of us.
And in many ways, the entire space represents the best of us. From its legacy as a project that brought varying religious communities together, to its current purpose of bringing people together over a delicious cup of coffee, this space has always encouraged the very best in people. And if you doubt that, then you'll just have to come see it for yourself!