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History of The Barney Maffett Center

By March 10, 2022July 28th, 2023News & Events

The Barney Maffett Center began its life as Barney Maffett’s Cafe at the corner of Barney and Maffett streets in Muskegon Heights. In 1997, Covenant Church’s Board of Deacons purchased the former Boelkins Grocery Store after 80 years of business. Rumor had it that someone wanted to buy the building and turn it into a liquor store. So our Deacons immediately paid five hundred dollars in earnest money, and the congregation completed the purchase soon after.

Our deacons and other church members then spent six months in prayer and action to discern what might be done with the space. Considerations included reopening as a low-cost grocery store, using it as additional storage or office space for church and ministry needs, or opening a small cafe. Why a cafe? Because we learned that’s what our neighbors wanted after the residents all around the building were surveyed. After a full year of renovations by church members and friends, “Barney’s” opened in 1998. Its mission was to be “a beautiful, character-filled coffee shop where the gospel is gently shared through kindness and service.” In 2003, after 5 years of good coffee, food, and fellowship, Barney’s closed as a business, but ministry lived on.

Since then, The Barney Maffett Center has continued as a bright spot for ministry in our neighborhood: a store-front church, a meeting place for an after-school YMCA center, and, for two years, a cafe and computer center for a federally funded program called Weed and Seed. For several years, it was home to one of the three locations for PATHFINDERS, an after-school program for youth. When the partnership could no longer be financially supported by Pathfinders or Covenant, we once again turned to prayer and discernment, and a decision was made to sell the building.

While navigating COVID, Covenant had several offers and plans for the building brought to its attention. Finally, the holy space at Barney and Maffett Streets was purchased in 2021 by Kaja Thornton-Hunter for her business Overcoming Barriers. The site became “Barney Maffett B US iness Cafe” aka the “US Cafe” serving Aldea fair-trade coffee 5 days a week as well as breakfast and lunch on designated days. The Cafe has quickly become a community space for folks to connect, collaborate, mentor, and meet up with community leaders. Also available for sale at the cafe are “Kaja’s Spices,” which are produced and packaged right in town. The Aldea Coffee is great and the ideas are flowing, so visit the Cafe at the corner of Barney and Maffett, two short blocks from Covenant Community Church.

RCP Admin

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