The Well Coffeehouse: Brew with a Mission
Writer / Jane VanOsdol
Does it surprise you that indulging your daily caffeine addiction can help someone besides yourself? It turns out that a cup of Joe can do just that when you buy it from The Well Coffeehouse in Fishers.
Four years ago, Indianapolis physicians and husband and wife Debbie and Tony Zancanaro were looking for something to invest in that would allow them to have an impact on people “in their present situation.”
A friend connected them with Rob Touchstone, director of missional entrepreneurship at Lipscomb University. While completing his master’s degree, Touchstone wrote a vision for a missional coffeehouse. He and Chris Soper, a veteran retail manager, gave life to the vision by co-founding The Well Coffeehouse in Nashville, Tennessee, with the goal of digging wells in developing countries.
The Zancanaros loved the model, joined the board of directors and invested financially. After just a few months, they broached the idea of replicating the coffeehouse in Indiana.
The Well in Fishers
After looking at several areas, they settled on Fishers. “So much of this has just been dropped in our laps, God-like,” Debbie Zancanaro said. “When we saw Fishers, we just knew this is where we were supposed to be.”
The Well, which serves up coffee along with breakfast, lunch, snacks and evening dessert, follows Touchstone’s nonprofit model. The Zancanaros take no salary. “We don’t need it. Don’t want it. This is give back,” Debbie said. After paying their bills and their employees, 100 percent of the proceeds go to building wells.
A mix of shabby chic meets industrial, the coffeehouse is a lively, large space with numerous tables, a small stage and two separate conference rooms that can be reserved for meetings.
The Zancanaros are all about serving both the local and international communities.
As much as possible, they included other nonprofits as they built and outfitted The Well. Furniture was bought from a nonprofit that employs ex-prisoners to make the furniture. Store shelves spotlight products from other nonprofits, such as Joyn handbags which are made by outcasts in India.
Like the other two Well locations (two more are under construction), the Zancanaros are establishing a “Wishing Well” board where people post their needs, and others can fulfill them. “It can be as little as ‘I need a ride to somewhere’ to we had one girl who was a second semester senior at Lipscomb and could not pay her tuition, and her tuition was paid,” Debbie said.
Buy a Cup of Coffee, Help Build a Well
Thus far, the coffeehouses combined have funded 13 wells. Once a location is decided upon, on-the-ground partners handle the legal and governmental issues. The Well works closely with Christian Relief Fund, Blood:Water, Life Water International and Mocha Club. Depending upon the site, the building process can be tricky. Droughts make for difficult drilling, and no infrastructure means wells have to be augured by hand.
With the Fishers location off to a quick start, the Zancanaros are hoping that they will have the funds for their first well in Haiti in months. Other future goals include the following:
• Taking The Well baristas to visit the wells firsthand.
• Funding a well each month.
• Creating a second brand of coffee named Jerry Can (a Jerry Can is a water container). Proceeds from sales would provide a dedicated water collection container to families, thereby reducing contamination issues.
• Establishing relationships with the coffee farmers directly (most from Honduras) and roasting their own beans versus working with brokers, thus passing more money directly to the farmers.
Ultimately, The Well has taken what is many people’s beverage of choice and turned it into a way to pay it forward. Want to help?
• Buy coffee and a meal or snacks at The Well in Fishers.
• Add a donation to your total at checkout.
• Write a donation check and give it to the cashier.
• Donate online at wellcoffeehouse.com/projects.