Beach coffee shop loses leaseA Beach coffee shop, known to many as “God’s Little Coffee Shop,” may soon have to close its doors after a large corporation terminated the coffee house’s lease.
A Beach coffee shop, known to many as “God’s Little Coffee Shop,” may soon have to close its doors after a large corporation terminated the coffee house’s lease.
Bobbi Hildebrant, owner of Hill O’ Beans Espresso & Christian Gifts, said her last day operating in the present location, just off Exit 1 in Beach, will be Jan. 17.
For the past nine years, Hildebrant has rented the land from the Flying J/Pilot Travel Centers, LLC and shortly before Christmas, a company representative advised her it was terminating her lease.
“On the 17th of December two gentleman came over and said, ‘We’ve heard great things about you, we know you’re a wonderful person … but we need to close you down,’ ” Hildebrant said. “And my question was why? And he said, ‘We no longer give a complementary cup of coffee to the truckers and therefore you have become competition.’ ”
The gentleman that advised her of the situation was Bob Barnett, a regional facility revenue manager for Flying J/Pilot Travel Centers, Hildebrant said.
Barnett first advised the Press Tuesday he would return a phone call and later said he would have a member of the company’s legal department answer questions.
Additional calls to Barnett and the legal department went unreturned Tuesday and Wednesday.
“It’s just terribly wrong. I think for these big companies to try to destroy … if I were getting rich it’d be one thing, if they were losing a ton of business off of me but that’s not happening,” Hildebrant said. “It’s so ridiculous to think that my little coffee shop is a threat to them.”
Moving to an alternate location has weighed on Hildebrant’s mind.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do,” she said.
After a fire at the Flying J in 2005 forced Hildebrant to move from the building’s north side to her present location, she is unsure where she could move to next.
Visibility from Interstate 94 is vital along with accessibility to travelers and truckers.
“At this point I’m just trusting God must have a bigger plan because I’ll tell you this has always been ‘God’s Little Coffee Shop’ and I’ve tried to serve Him well as long as I’ve been here so I’m figuring there has to be a purpose and a reason for all of this, but I’m not quite sure what, but I guess I’ll have to wait for His time,” Hildebrant said.
Friends and spiritual connections Hildebrant has made through the interstate and the community have been remarkable.
“I say this sincerely every day there’s prayers and witnessing and sharing of the Lord in here. That’s why I say it’s not a coffee shop — I mean it is but it isn’t — that is not what it stands for and I think that’s the part that is so devastating because it’s all about the Lord, it’s not about us,” Hildebrant said.
The closing not only affects the community and truckers and travelers who frequent her shop, but also mission efforts, Hildebrant said.
She is a volunteer for child sponsorship program Mission of Mercy and also a supporter of Children’s Cup, Missions to Swaziland, Africa.
Thanks to Hildebrant’s customers and the community, $19,500 was donated to the missions last year, according to a letter from Hildebrant.
“There’s no compassion in corporate America — it’s all about making money but I find it really sad,” Hildebrant said.
Beach Mayor Walter Losinski, who has frequented the coffee shop for several years, hates to see it go.
“It is a good place to go in the morning and the atmosphere is really good — have fellowship every so often,” Losinski said.
All the tips Hildebrant receives go to the missions, Losinski said.
Beach resident Blondie Shaw said “it’s the hardest thing in the world” to see the shop shut its doors. And while the coffee is excellent, there’s more to it.
“It’s just been a tremendous witness for our Heavenly Father and just for the whole community, a place to go that you know you’re safe and you can talk about things and it’s God-centered,” Shaw said.
Lori Koppinger, who lives between Dickinson and Beach, worked at the shop from 2005 through 2008 and still frequents the shop once or twice a week.
To Koppinger, the shop is about the listening ear and compassion and the shop’s closing is sad.
“It’s not just handing over a product, it’s truly caring about the person on the other side of the counter,” Koppinger said.