A Lexington coffee house serves up art and some dignity
The minute you walk up to McLeod’s Coffee House on Southland Drive in Lexington you are tempted to stop and just gawk.
There’s a ten-foot-high red elephant made of metal standing out front of the entrance, a wooden four-foot long, black and white potbellied pig sits on a table, and a four-foot-high metal cartoon minion stands nearby. These are just a few of the old and odd-looking things that cover the space leading into the coffee house.
It's named for Brewster McLeod, the owner and creator who retired a few years ago after serving four decades as a minister at Southland Christian Church in Jessamine County. Inside the coffee house is filled with more items that he bought from garage sales and flea markets. All of it is for sale.
“I’m not a picker, but I’m a treasure hunter.”
Lights made from roof vent caps hang from the ceiling. A bicycle from the 1950s is mounted on one wall. There’s a 1940’s radio, a bowling ball from the sixties, and a large velvet sofa. All of it is for sale.
McLeod describes the coffee house as, “eclectic. Antique-ish. Edgy. Fun. A safe place where you can come and get great coffee. A great donut. But you can also buy that velvet sofa today. You don’t have to order it.”
McLeod says the money made from selling the items goes to support the coffee house which is a non-profit. He retired four years ago after serving four decades as a minister at Southland Christian Church in Jessamine County.
As a youth minister, he created the Jesus Prom, an event each year that hosts the special needs community for a night of dancing and fellowship. McLeod says he was inspired to open a coffee house staffed by disabled and challenged people.
“I did it because I wanted this group to be included. Inclusive. Inclusivity is the most important thing about doing this.”
McLeod calls his coffee house staff… VIPs. They include people who have challenges like cerebral palsy, autism, social anxiety, and blindness. 24-year-old Samantha Miller works the counter selling coffee and food.
“I do have social anxiety that can kinda get in the way. They understand about everything. Whether it's mental, physical. I actually have a friend who works here who’s missing a hand. She works the expresso machine like a two-handed person would.”
Samantha is behind the counter making a hot chocolate for a customer. “This is just a great atmosphere to be in. I don’t think I could possibly find anything else I want to do later on. Because all my friends are here. They’re like family.”
39-year-old John Smith agrees. He has cerebral palsy and is taking customers’ orders. “The friends I have made here are phenomenal, and our customers are phenomenal so it’s great.”
McLeod says his staff of “VIPs” is very dependable and hard-working. He says he has never had to fire anyone at the coffee house.
“Faithfulness. They never quit. They’re so faithful with what they do.”
Conversations fill the air as customers hang out. A pottery class is underway at one table. There’s even live music from blind 67-year-old Harley Cannon. He used to own a recording shop in Lexington. Now his plays his keyboard and horn at various places around the area.
At McLeod’s Coffee House, he sits just inside the front door and belts out jazz and gospel tunes. “My heart's in gospel, and then jazz and an old favorites. I majored in jazz, piano, and trumpet in college.” Harley echoes the thoughts about the atmosphere at the coffee house.
“It seems as people tend to really care about each other that come here, and they’re interested in what’s going on in each other’s lives. That’s huge to me. He hires people with disabilities, and I’m just thinking that’s just rich.”
McLeod says just about every day they’re open something special happens. On a Friday in March he appreciates his staff being interviewed by this reporter.
“Today has been that and you. And you gave value to them. Almost there’s a story every single time that door opens up.”
McLeod’s Coffee House is serving up more than drinks and food. It’s a place of relaxation, community, respect, and understanding.
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