October 05, 2005 News & Features » Cover Story


Heavenly Grounds Café 

Chesterfield, 9957 Hull Street Road

"You guys, somebody needs to know Jesus is here," Headley tells the crowd. "Back off, Satan! We're going to blow the roof off of this place."

About a dozen senior citizens from the Rockwood Village apartment complex, located a half-mile down the road behind Costco, are sipping coffee and soda. Another group of 60-somethings, old friends from Manchester High, are nodding and clapping at the next table over. This is their place.

Some are churchgoers, but many aren't. The café isn't bogged down in the formalities of Sunday morning. They catch up. They rib each other endlessly. They even flirt a little. The group from Manchester will usually stop by Captain D's for an early dinner and then retire across the parking lot to the coffeehouse.

Lois Faison says the men will even stop by for breakfast. They seem to have all the time in the world to sit around and do nothing.

"They're all retired," she says sarcastically, "but the wives are always working."

"And we appreciate you," Billy Cecil, a retired welder, snaps back. Aw-shucks chortling ensues, suggesting they've heard this exchange before.

As coffeehouses go, Heavenly Grounds is on a different plane. There are the typical iced lattes, espresso, sandwiches and desserts. Staples such as the front-door sofa and bar-height chairs and tables ring true, but the Jesus memorabilia sets it apart. "Got Jesus" mugs and Christian books litter the place. A Bible on the coffee table by the sofa — opened to Proverbs 18-20 — sits next to "Traits of a Lasting Marriage," an instructional on matrimony.

The owner, Danny Mangigian, opened the coffeehouse two years ago to offer a good "Christian place" for people to go. And he's saved a few souls along the way. With "prayer" and a little intervention, he says he convinced two young female workers who had gotten pregnant — one was 16 — not to go through with abortions; one even decided to get married at the coffeehouse. He remembers how he and a local pastor pulled one of the girls aside the night before she was scheduled to have the procedure done. "She got up the next morning and decided not to go," Mangigian says.

Between sets, Headley takes a break and encourages the group to patronize the bar, buy some coffee, sandwiches, whatever, to help the owner out. "We still need to be praying for Danny and the coffeehouse," Headley says.

Headley's ponytailed brother Alan Brown is sitting near the bar. He's here to support his sister. Brown prefers hard rock and admits he isn't much of a churchgoer. But he likes Heavenly Grounds, especially the sandwiches.

"We came in here one Thursday night, and they had rappers in here," he says. "They were real good rappers."

His sister's music?

"I listen to it. I hear it," he says sheepishly. "It's all right." — Scott Bass

More Coffehouses...

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