Dining With Denise Neil

A week full of tears in the coffee as fans bid farewell to favorite downtown hangout

Molly Loesch serves up a drink at Mead’s Corner in 2013.
Molly Loesch serves up a drink at Mead’s Corner in 2013. File photo

As she teared up over her ham and cheese sandwich on Wednesday afternoon, Mead’s Corner regular Jennifer White felt compelled to share her grief on social media.

“Totes normal to cry over a sammich, right?” she wrote on her Instagram post, sharing a picture of the “Mr. Hill” sandwich she loves — but will be able to get for only a few more days.

White hasn’t been the only tearful customer this week at Mead’s Corner, a coffee shop/ministry that has operated at 430 E. Douglas since November 2008. The shop’s last day in business will be Saturday, followed by a Sunday afternoon celebration with music, speakers and half-price drinks.

Customers have been coming in one after the other this week to have their last Mead’s sandwich, their last Mead’s gelato, their last Mead’s coffee, staff members said. And many are documenting their accompanying tears on social media.

“Wichita won’t be the same without our Mead’s,” Tracie Nice wrote earlier this week, posting on Facebook a picture of her last honey iced latte from the shop.

In May, First United Methodist Church pastor Cindy Watson announced that the shop would be closing, noting a “significant increase” in rent. The church started the coffee shop as a way to raise money for charitable organizations.

Though Mead’s will close at the end of business on Saturday, the church has the lease on the building through the end of August. After that, it will become a new shop for Kookabura Coffee owners Rebecca McNelly and Edward Fox.

On Sunday, the day after the last day in business for Mead’s, the shop is inviting customers to come in from 2 to 4:30 p.m. to hear live music, listen to speakers talk about the shop’s significance and watch a documentary about its impact.

Manager Michaela Tubbs, who organized the day-after celebration, said people will be able to enjoy one last treat from a special menu on Sunday, including some half-price drinks and gelato.

“We’re trying to use up any of our extra supplies, trying to get rid of as much as we can,” she said.

The space that Mead’s Corner took over in 2008 had held a revolving door of restaurants, bars and nightclubs over the years, most notably Gilbert & Mosley’s, a restaurant and pub that operated from 1991 to 1999. After it closed, many wondered if anything would ever work in the space.

But Mead’s was an immediate hit. It was one of downtown’s first big coffee shops, and it had cozy furniture and lots of space. It also had good coffee, and even though it was started as a ministry, it didn’t preach to its customers. Anyone was welcome.

That was the vibe that attracted White, the founder of ICT S.O.S., an organization that combats human trafficking. She was a regular at Mead’s Corner when she was forming the organization and would often hold her meetings there. Eventually, the owners offered her office space. ICT S.O.S. operated there for three years.

But even after they moved out, White remained a regular. She goes at least twice a week, she said.

“Mead’s was just its own little blend of magic, just being such a welcoming space,” she said. “You could walk in there and see a Bible study happening at one table and a business meeting happening at the next table and a first date happening at the next table. It was a really great mix of Wichita people from all different walks of life in our city, and they all felt comfortable.”

Manager Kelsie Bathgate said it’s been a tough week for the staff, too.

Bathgate said she’s been working at Mead’s Corner for a year, and it’s her favorite job she’s ever had. She’s not sure what she’ll do next, though she’s talked to the new owners about the possibility of staying on.

The hardest part, she said, has been breaking the news to customers who somehow still don’t know Mead’s is closing. She’s had to do that every day this week.

But she anticipates Saturday will be even harder.

“I’m going to be bawling my eyes out on the last day,” she said.

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