The Gathering Place: Building a Community

Most coffee-loving Shawnee citizens have been to the Gathering Place, but not many know their story.

Aaron & Jamie Hembree

Aaron & Jamie Hembree

The hip new coffee shop located on Main Street in the heart of downtown Shawnee is home to not only some well-brewed coffee, but also to a passionate couple of young entrepreneurs.

Aaron and Jamie Hembree are originally from the Tulsa area. They got their inspiration for the Gathering Place from a coffee shop they had frequented there together.

“Our favorite coffee shop in Tulsa was on Cherry Street,” Aaron said. “There was this little coffee shop called Heirloom Bakery. So every Saturday we’d go to the farmer’s market and we’d stop at Heirloom Bakery and the people there were awesome and they had the best tasting coffee.”

It was there at Heirloom Bakery that both Aaron and Jamie got an appreciation for good coffee.

“I blame the entire mess on one barista that worked for Topeca,” Jamie said. “I used to drink caramel lattes or kind of a mixed bag of things. Finally, he kind of weaned me down into good coffee.

“I stepped my way down through flavored lattes and regular lattes and cappuccinos and cortados and then americanos and just good black coffee and fell in love with it. Once you have good coffee it’s hard to go back to Folgers.”

The thought process behind the establishment of the shop came from a desire for community and authenticity.

“We really put an emphasis on craft coffee".

“We really put an emphasis on craft coffee".

“When we decided to plant roots in Shawnee and start a family, we decided that we wanted to find a place where people could authentically come as they are and meet with other people,” Jamie said.

“We had a hard time finding a place where we felt comfortable to do that. So that’s really the start of it, just trying to find a place where we felt we could build community...for ourselves, more than for anyone else.”

“We were talking to our friends like, ‘do you want to open a coffee shop? Do you want to open a coffee shop? No? Then I guess we will,’” Aaron said.

The rest happened with ease, to the surprise of the couple.

“It just fell into place,” Jamie said. “We weren’t really looking, we just found out that this property was up for almost no money. And so, we bought the three lots, and then everything kind of fell from there. Once we had property down here we just figured ‘why not’?”

The idea of a coffee shop being the “gathering place” of the community is not new. It’s been that way since their invention.

“It’s a place where you can just come in and be authentic.”

“It’s a place where you can just come in and be authentic.”

“Coffee shops have always been the community ‘gathering place,’” Aaron said. “And so they actually used to be called ‘penny universities.’ So they said you could come here - all class distinctions are left at the door, by definition.

“You come in and like everybody can just talk to anybody. It’s always been that, since the 1600s. It’s a place where you can just come in and be authentic.”

Regarding the future of the Gathering Place, Aaron pointed out a recent post on the Gathering Place Instagram page. The post reads:

“We are pleased to announce the merger of the Gathering Place Coffee Co. and Euphoria Coffee Co.! … We are ecstatic about the opportunities for new friendships and for the extension of our communities. We hope that you’ll share our excitement.”

For those unfamiliar with Euphoria Coffee, it was formerly a coffee truck on Kickapoo. Now, according to the Hembrees, the truck will be a “Gathering Place” branded truck for events.

If you’re interested in visiting The Gathering Place’s website, click here!

Here’s a short video about The Gathering Place and its proprietors, produced by Oliver Visuals. Click the link or watch the embedded video below!