The Fringe Coffee House Breaks Down Barriers for Ex-Felons
The Fringe Coffee House is designed with a mission: to break down barriers for ex-felons as they re-enter society. With a nine-month customized job training program for ex-convicts, the unique café empowers and equips those on the fringes of society.
Fringe founders Patrick and Sarah Davis know what it’s like to be spurned. Both have been incarcerated and experienced the complicated re-entry process. Theirs are comeback tales with plot twists of redemption, forgiveness and kinship. They give hope to local inmates through Scars and Bars, a music- and arts-driven mentorship program. The Davis’ also lead The Fringe Church.
“Our mission is to meet people on the fringe, help them work through their issues and be willing to walk with them for the long haul,” Patrick explains.
Patrick and Sarah identify a gap in the support offered to the incarcerated upon release: it is difficult to get a good job with a criminal record.
“It was the missing link,” says Patrick. “I’ve been doing prison work for 15 years. I’ve seen tremendous transformations in people, but I kept observing the same problem over and over. No one wants to hire ex-felons. Instead of sitting around griping about the problem, we decided to create a business that will hire them.”
Many of the skills used to run a small business are new to ex-convicts.
“All of these skills can be transferable to a lot of different occupations,” says Patrick. “We want for them to be the best candidates for any type of employment once they finish our program.”
Beyond hiring ex-felons, Fringe is dedicated to providing a network of social support and personalized resources designed to help them overcome barriers to success.
“Parenting classes, tattoo removal, education… everything that we do, it’s all designed around empowerment,” Patrick says. “Goal number one is for our employees to find a sense of family and wholeness—to know their worth and value. We are committed to ‘the slow work of God.’”
Even the walls at The Fringe Coffee House have a story to tell. Covered in street art, they scream in color, poetry and lyrics. Framed photos of convicted felons beckon with their eyes.
“We wanted the building to be an indoor street art gallery,” Patrick explains. “Visually, the idea is that it tells the stories of people whose stories haven’t mattered. Everything in there is done intentionally to provoke thought, creativity and growth.”
A stage is set to host live music, comedy and poetry events. The stairs are covered with sheet music, leading to the second floor’s professional recording studio and creative arts space.
“On the second floor of the coffeehouse, we have created a space where at-risk kids can learn an instrument, record and produce music, and learn audio and video, all free of charge,” Patrick shares. “It’s a positive place for kids, where they can use these tools to find their voice and tell their stories in creative ways.”
The Fringe Coffee House is breaking down barriers for ex-felons, cup by cup.