By Barry Dalton
The corner of Main and Washington has a storied history in Vandalia. Once the Montgomery Ward catalogue store, it has also been a bank, a coffee shop called the Java Goddess and most recently an antique store, Past Reflections. Now it’s His Place.
Serving premium ice cream, Amish bread and pastries, fresh deli sandwiches, and brewed or specialty coffee drinks, His Place hopes to open sometime early this summer.
Featuring a spacious dining area with tables, refurbished ceilings and sunshine beaming through high windows, it’s the perfect spot to either relax and chat or enjoy the privacy of your own table. Owner Virginia Howdeshell, 84, hopes it will be a spot where people can come get a bite to eat or just hang out over a cup of coffee.
“The three goals is to put people back to work, to have a place for socializing where people will feel comfortable to come, and to see some of the old buildings in Vandalia restored, opened up and keeping them alive,” Howdeshell said.
“So much of it is her incredible vision that has brought this about,” explained Nathan Geesey, who is helping Howdeshell open the coffee shop as well as a thrift store next door. “She has a passion for restoring old buildings. Our goal is bringing the community together. We’ve had enough COVID, and enough isolation and enough of that. We need to be able to get back together again and connect.”
They have been working with community volunteers for the past three months to clean up and restore two adjoining buildings. The one on the corner will be the His Place coffee shop and deli with the adjoining building on the north side becoming Hope Restored thrift store.
Many community members have joined in to help with the hard work, which has kept start-up costs down. Geesey has also been working with businesses in Missouri, Illinois and Iowa to find and purchase good quality used kitchen equipment at discount prices.
“I’m very grateful for the volunteers that has came and worked because a lot of work has been done and a lot more needs to be done,” Howdeshell said.
The dining area needed a good cleaning, but it had already been beautifully restored by the previous owners. Refurbishing the kitchen area and the thrift store next door was a different matter altogether. The thrift shop building had previously been a stained glass windows manufacturing shop.
“Virginia has quite a group of volunteers who have rallied around her to bring this about,” Geesey said. “She outworks the rest of us. Today, she got here and started sanding the drywall. Yesterday, she was mudding and taping, she’s a worker.”
“How much can you read and sew?” Howdeshell asked. “I’m better off when I’m working.”
The coffee shop will operate as an independent, for-profit business, but the thrift store will be a nonprofit entity specializing in good-condition children’s clothing.
“I got sick in November with the COVID,” Howdeshell said. “I don’t know how much time I have left because I’m 84, so I’m giving the rest of my life and resources to enhance the Kingdom of God. So this is a ministry.”
His Place will be open Monday through Saturday, beginning with a limited lunchtime schedule from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Soon, though, the shop will begin to expand in phases. They hope to have local musicians on Friday nights this fall and eventually begin serving breakfast.
Look for the Leader’s coverage of the grand opening soon with more about Howdeshell’s contributions to the Vandalia community.