Tucked away on East Washington Street is the unofficial caffeine supplier for the city of Goshen, The Electric Brew.A hodgepodge of decor along with various places to hide away and forget the outside world for a while greets you. To enter the shop is to wait in line and be given a chance to look around. A 1920s vintage bicycle divides the seating section from the front counter, a large painting of Earth as seen from space encompassing half of the wall, thrifted furniture of oak and pine wood that could only mesh well together in this setting, a corkboard describing local companies and events, and a wide variety of customers.
Libby Eichorn, a barista who works one to two days a week at The Electric Brew, said the line often stretches out the door with customers. Even so, Eichorn said, there’s no sense of the staff carrying a burden.
“I actually like coming into work,” she said with a laugh. “I always have fun! Sometimes, people from GC who have been in plays come in, and it feels like serving a celebrity.”
Sadie Brenneman, a Goshen College second-year student and a former barista at The Electric Brew, said, “It feels like every time I walk into The Brew I see someone I know and I can catch up with them for a few minutes. It really is a special place for the community that is difficult to compare to any other place… and of course, their drinks are the best, but I might be biased.”
The managers of The Brew also recognize that their coffee shop provides a second home for many GC students and Goshen community members. The shop is decorated for every season. By early October, the coffee shop hosted pumpkins on every surface as well as string lights and signs for the local enchanted forest tour.
“We provide a space for relationships to happen,” said Jeremy Bontrager, co-owner of The Electric Brew. “Goshen students can go off campus here and meet others. We always strive to be a place where people can gather and discuss their differences while still being friends and moving on with life. It’s a neutral place that connects both students and community.”
The Electric Brew was named the Indiana Main Street Business of the Year in 2015 by the Indiana Statehouse.
“So many college kids come into The Brew daily,” Eichorn said. “It’s just kinda expected now. It’s nice that even though there’s coffee shops on campus, people are still willing to come here.”
Sydney Newland, a former barista at The Brew, said, “Working a lot of closing shifts, I got to meet a lot of Goshen College students coming in late. They always affirmed to me that The Brew is just an awesome place to work and hang out. They gave me an idealistic version of Goshen.”
The Brew also works with the campus to provide exclusive discounts for GC students.
“We are always doing stuff to work with the campus,” said Bontrager. “Currently, we have teamed up in order to give pastry and iced coffee discounts for students when they come in with their ID.”
This discount includes limited edition drinks, such as their current Spiced Apple Cider or Witches’ Brew coffee.
In addition to providing discounts, The Brew also provides a local place for GC students to work and connect with others outside of campus.
“I’ve worked with several Goshen College students over the years,” Bontrager said. “Most have been very community oriented. They like the relationship The Brew gives within the community and downtown area.”
The Electric Brew does work not only with GC, but with the community of Goshen as a whole. They have a source of pride in being a locally owned business in a small community, and working closely with their team. Each day, you can walk in to find a new rotation on their sign that says ‘your baristas today’.
“The best part of working in a small town, I would say, is the relationships that are built,” Bontrager said. “Since it’s a small community, it’s that relationship that can be built with regulars and people we team up with to do outreach. To be part of a community that cares about you as a business is really special, and in return we care about the community. You could go to any big corporation and earn a check but here, people care.”
Newland said, “The Brew was always the place I come back to to work and relax even since I started working somewhere else. Goshen is a place I actually want to be.”