‘Labor of love’ leads to coffee shop in Hartford landmark

Aug. 28, 2019

When Joshua’s Coffee House opens in early September in downtown Hartford, customers will find more than a cup of coffee.

David and Victoria Obenauer’s “labor of love” has transformed a historic landmark and turned an adjoining area into a tranquil courtyard that’s filled with flowers, climbing vines and trees. And all that work will support their efforts to build community and relationships.

“We have to return back to the value where we’re sitting down, and we’re getting to know and rediscover each other,” David Obenauer said.

Obenauer bought the 1902 Mundt Building on Main Street about a decade ago.

“I was doing a poker run. We stopped at the South Bar. As I walked out with my neighbor, he said, ‘Well, that building’s coming down,’ referring to the Mundt Building. I looked up at it, and I could see how she was split and she was leaning. ‘Oh, that ain’t bad. I’ve fixed buildings worse than that.’ He goes, ‘You have? You ought to buy it then.’”

He did and the family began the long process of jacking up the sills, replacing windows, shoring up and tuck-pointing the quartzite stone, lifting up the floor and much more.

“When we bought the building, it had 26 leaks. The (tin) ceiling was all rusting, dropping,” Obenauer said.

They were able to move undamaged sections of tin from another area of the building into the coffee shop but kept the piece that’s filled with holes from long ago when a bar was in the space and a customer’s shotgun went off. The floor also holds a piece of history — the wood was once part of the basketball court at the Sioux Falls Arena.

Obenauer also bought two buildings to the north that didn’t have historic value and tore them down as his vision grew for a coffee shop and gathering place that would bring people downtown.

They created the courtyard, filling it with greenery and flowers, installing pavers and a fire pit, building a waterfall and trellises, and stringing bistro lights.

“We just wanted to create a nice, peaceful, relaxing environment,” Victoria Obenauer said.

The couple built their home in the lower level of the building and leased the original bank part of the building to a flower and gift shop.

The coffee shop is named in memory of Obenauer’s oldest son, Joshua. The 22-year-old died in 2012 of injuries sustained in a fall while washing the exterior windows of the Avera Cancer Institute.

“He never drank coffee. He hated coffee, but he loved a mean hot chocolate,” Obenauer said.

Along with his seven siblings, Joshua had helped his father restore the building, so those memories are a part of the business too.

Joshua’s Coffee House will have a grand opening from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 8. Regular hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday will begin the next day.

The business will feature Coffea Roasterie’s coffee and serve a breakfast sandwich, paninis and soup.

The Obenauers, who are ordained ministers, will give a portion of sales to support regional and international missions. They’ve already been using the coffee shop space for home church services, prayer gatherings and Bible studies for their River of Fire Ministries.

The ministry will be a subtle part of the coffee shop. “We’re not going to preach Christ to people in here,” Obenauer said. “We’re just going to be that example and just serve and see what God does.”

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‘Labor of love’ leads to coffee shop in Hartford landmark

The soon-to-open Joshua’s Coffee House in Hartford offers a lot beyond the Coffea Roasterie coffee it will serve: a historic setting that was in shambles and has been restored, a courtyard that’s a peaceful oasis, a heartbreaking story behind its name and a mission to build relationships.

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