Coffee serves many different purposes, but at The Roosevelt Coffeehouse that purpose is to improve lives.
Located at 300 East Long St., the coffeehouse was created to fund carefully selected organizations fighting human trafficking, waterborne diseases and hunger.
Since opening in April 2015, the nonprofit has donated more than $89,000 to human-rights efforts in the United States and around the world.
Now, The Roosevelt is expanding its social enterprise with the creation of its own company, Roosevelt Coffee Roasters. The company will begin selling speciality coffee inspired by global cultures within the next two weeks.
It will also open a new location inside the Olentangy River Brewing Company in Lewis Center this fall.
Not only is its unique approach to philanthropy winning support from the community, but its craft-brewed coffee and open atmosphere has made it the shop of choice for many.
“The coffee is really great, but I can get behind an organization that has an awesome mission and vision like Roosevelt does. The place is super hip too,” Ohio State alum Anthony Seaman said.
On any given day, university students, business leaders and city council members can be found at one of the many tables chatting over coffee and bagels.
“We try to treat everyone like family, so I think that really brings people in and keeps them coming,” manager Bethany Lovelace said.
Its lattes and espressos also earned it a spot on the Columbus Coffee Trail, a citywide initiative to highlight the area’s coffee scene.
Founder and owner Kenny Sipes has made the glossy, wood counter behind the coffee bar his office.
Sipes said he has a spiritual gift for connecting people. He formed many relationships with patrons of the coffee shop, even bringing people over to his house for dinner with his family.
“It’s hard to ignore the tall, red-headed dude at the counter that runs the place,” Sipes said.
Before he was known for his successful nonprofit, Sipes went from running an urban music store for 10 years to becoming a youth pastor at a local church.
During his 10 years in ministry, Sipes organized 15 domestic student mission trips and a handful of international trips to Cambodia and Lesotho.
“Everything from the inner-city America experience to Africa to Cambodia, you start to get a sense of the need and the sense of privilege that you have,” Sipes said. “As much as I loved how much those kind of trips can transform your own personal character, it can have some semblance of temporary impact where you go.”
Eventually, Sipes left ministry without a plan, but knew he wanted to be involved in something that had a long-term, sustainable impact.
The Roosevelt was established when Sipes found his inspiration on a trip to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C., and decided to combine his love for coffee with social justice. He started with Facebook invites to pop-up shops in his house, simply getting people’s feedback on the coffee he collected from across the country.
On opening day, the coffeehouse was $3,500 in debt. By the end of the first week, the debt was paid off due to generous donations. Its philanthropic numbers have increased every year since opening, donating a total of $33,172.15 in 2017.
“When you decide to do something that has no sense to it, resigning from a good job at the age of 48, sometimes you just do something that’s risky,” Sipes said. “And to be honest, that’s probably what’s been the most inspiring part of my story for other people.”