Good Spaces and Good Places

Andy Crouch describes the airport in Charlotte, N.C. as “a place the good news whispers just a bit more audibly.” (Culture Making) Places like this are good for the soul, and good for the soul of our cities. By design they nourish the best in our design, functioning almost like greenhouses. They are good spaces that remind us of the very good and invite us to embrace it.

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Place matters. Dirt is good. Beauty is very good. The material world, with all its scars, is still part of the story. And not a lesser part. Our bodies, the very roads we travel, the work of our hands and the spaces we rest, worship, and play … they are all a part of a magnificent creation. The places we build and the way we cultivate space give visible expression to our beliefs regarding dignity, beauty, generosity, pleasure, responsibility, community, equality, and even justice and mercy. The gospel lifts our view in these areas and leads us to a higher sense of stewardship that produces actual fruit in places where the whisper of the good news can be heard.

I found one of these places in Tampa at Buddy Brew Coffee. Actually I heard the whisper from Buddy Brew just over four years ago when I was still out west in a land that pairs perfectly with good coffee. The first whisper came in an email from Buddy Brew’s pioneering founder, Dave Ward. It wasn’t in the brand or even a conversation about coffee that I first heard it. It was in the way that Dave wrote. His words were razor sharp, and near the end of the email the tone changed and took on an almost pastoral appeal as he signed off, “In Him.”

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Dave Ward is a gospel guy. His life and his smile are seasoned with God’s grace. His company is too. That is no small thing. The whisper of good news can be heard in Hyde Park, on Kennedy, and floating through the halls at the Oxford Exchange because Buddy Brew is there. It echos through the beauty of each space and in the peculiar kindness of the staff.

That whisper led me to an old wooden staircase in the back of the Kennedy location. It carried me up to Buddy Brew’s corporate headquarters to meet Dave for the first time and to hear the story behind the place and the brand. Both have the energy of a start up and the honesty of family. The floors creak and the antique fixtures invite you to get to know them before they’ll open up. But in every old corner you find pioneers dreaming and working out their vision to “Brew Good & Do Good.” The thing I love the most about the story? It’s true.

Dreaming and working out vision. That’s what it takes to create places where “the good news whispers a bit more audibly.” It takes time, intention and investment. It takes pioneers. It takes new hearts, transformed minds, and the careful and intentional work of loving hands to actually create and curate these places. They don’t just happen. It takes listening and learning. It takes humility and boldness, failure and resilience. It takes wrestling with big ideas and avoiding contests with anything less. It takes training, staff meetings and money. Yep, money. It takes spending more money than you have to in order to care for people, source responsibly, provide quality and cultivate beauty. Brewing Good and Doing Good doesn’t just happen.

Dave Ward is a visionary leader seasoned with grace. We need more pioneers like this. We need more places like Buddy Brew Coffee, but the cost of those words taking on flesh is a high. In January I will sit down with Dave to talk about the reality of creating good places when my LAB podcast launches live from Buddy Brew’s Kennedy location.

Until then, raise a mug and join me in celebrating Dave Ward and the team at Buddy Brew for dreaming, working and living out their vision. When you have a chance, stop by and thank them for filling Tampa with the life and beauty of the gospel.