By Stephanie Dolan
Along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, at 647 Virginia Ave., sits a coffee shop that you may or may not have heard of.
For 10 years, the Calvin Fletcher Coffee Company, owned by father and son team Doug and Jeff Litsey, has been serving its community … and they haven’t just been serving coffee.
“We lived in the neighborhood at the time, and there wasn’t anything like a coffee shop in the neighborhood and we wanted a place where people could get to know us and people could get to know each other,” Doug said. “The idea that everybody would be welcomed was important. We wanted patrons to feel loved. We found a little spot in Fletcher Place and began to plan.”
The shop opened Sept. 30, 2009.
“We outgrew that place and now we’re in our permanent spot,” Litsey, 67, continued. “The community aspect of it has really exceeded my expectations. It has become a place of acceptance. People have meetings, students come and study … work … hang out. We have a great staff of baristas. Because we have often hired students they typically move on once they’ve completed their studies, but we’ve had great staff through the years. Consequently, the customers love us back.”
Each month, proceeds from the shop’s tip jar are donated to another nonprofit within the community. This practice has been going on since the store opened, and – this past November – the Calvin Fletcher Coffee Company Charitable Foundation was born.
According to the website (cfcoffeecompany.com/charitablefoundation) the charitable foundation was established in November 2018 to marshal resources of the Calvin Fletcher Coffee Company community to fund small nonprofit organizations in the greater Indianapolis area.
“We’ve been giving donations from the tip jar from the beginning,” Litsey said. “It was just something to kind of give back to the community.”
But word spread quickly, and once the tip jar donations became common knowledge, requests for help started pouring in.
“It was not as highly organized then as it is now through the foundation,” Doug continued. “I would keep requests in my head. My wife, Judy, heads up the foundation. She has done by far the bulk of the work to begin the nonprofit. She is very highly organized and has done just a fantastic job getting everybody on board with that quickly.”
Judy is president of the six-person board.
“We chose people for the board who we felt were very in tune with the mission of the coffee shop,” she said. “We chose people who we felt were good at networking – people who had had experience with working with nonprofits. Those were the main criteria that we thought about as we were asking people to be a part of the board – just expertise in different things. We see each of them as being a little different in their gifting – a variety of perspective was part of it too.”
“I originally moved into Fletcher Place in 2005,” board treasurer Amy Crook said. “I had a three-bedroom/one-bath rental. In 2005, there really wasn’t anything in Fletcher Place. The coffee shop became a gathering place for people to meet one another. There’s a little bit of a family element there. The coffee shop is kind of a central hub where everyone comes together and interacts with one another.”
The board will soon begin meeting quarterly to determine the grant recipients for 2020.
The Pink Ribbon Connection is an Indiana not-for-profit that provides free services and supplies to breast cancer patients across the state.
“We are so grateful for the $1,104 grant we received from Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Company Charitable Foundation,” Pink Ribbon Connection Executive Director Dori Sparks-Unsworth said. “This generous grant will make a real difference in our ability to provide free wigs, mastectomy bras and prostheses to breast cancer patients, as well as connect them with a peer counselor to support them emotionally through their treatment process. We are thrilled to be part of the Fountain Square community and are especially grateful to all those generous customers who frequent Calvin Fletcher’s and donate to the charities they support.”
“What that donation meant to us was the ability to put on the show – our ability to provide community theatre to anyone,” former Garfield Shakespeare Company Board President Lisa Laflin said.
The company’s donation of $1,364 made the difference in their being able to put on their production of “The Three Musketeers.”
“The Garfield Shakespeare Company is a nonprofit all-volunteer company that provides community theatre that is accessible to everyone,” Laflin said. “They charge $0 for any show they’ve ever done. There is no admission fee. The company runs strictly on donations. We accept donations at the door for every performance. We have had three large donors over the course of our lifetime: Friends of Garfield Park, Calvin Fletcher Coffee Co. and Central Indiana Community Foundation.”
“There are a lot of groups out there that do a lot of really great things in our city,” Litsey said. “From what I can tell through our work in the coffee shop, there are a lot of small nonprofits in Indy – a lot of large ones too, of course. They really need help. They do wonderful things. Some very good people work with those. We’ve become aware of the need, plus we just want to be people who give back. We want the shop to be known as giving back.”
For more information about the Calvin Fletcher Coffee Company and their new charitable foundation, visit the website at cfcoffeecompany.com.
5 Questions with Doug Litsey
Do you take you coffee black or light and sweet?
Black. I’ve never tried it sweetened. It just sounds like it would be terrible that way.
What’s your favorite drink on the menu?
I usually drink a cup or two of black coffee in the mornings, but maybe just a plain latte or cappuccino.
If you were going to include pets in your business plan, would you welcome dogs as visitors or adopt out cats?
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about business in the 10 years you’ve owned the coffee shop?
It’s very hard. Starting a small business is very hard. It was very stressful at the beginning. It’s consistently inconsistent. That’s because you might expect to have a really good day – or not – and it is – or not. But business is good and we’re very grateful.
Who or what inspires you?
God, first of all. And then my family and friends.