Greenhouse Church has undergone quite a few changes lately, and most notable is their name. Formerly known as the Greenhouse Culture, the house of worship has dropped “the” and “culture” from the name, and everything is now operating under the aegis of Greenhouse, proper. Secondly, they've moved – but not far.
Greenhouse recently relocated to 1012 Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence, from its former home across the street, in the former Masonic Temple at the corner of 10thand Massachusetts. While they'd only been in their new space less than two months when I first spoke with Sean Hatch, Greenhouse's executive pastor – there were signs everywhere with the hashtage “#supersoftopening” – they already felt right at home.
“We were in that building for a little more than six years,” says Hatch of the Masonic Temple, which was actually the church's third home since it launched in January of 2012. “For a short period, at the very beginning, there were some meetings in the [SpringHill Suites] by the riverfront, and then the church met at Maceli's for about six months.”
Hatch and his family moved to Lawrence about a year into the church's existence, and by that point, Greenhouse had moved into the Masonic Temple. The church's senior pastor, Jared Scholz, struck a friendship with someone who worked for First Management, and the church was able to get a great deal on the Temple – with the caveat that it came as-is.
“There was like, a decade of nothing in there and it was just – well, some folks I'm guessing didn't have homes found their way in through the roof hatch,” offers up the pastor as an example. While he and his family missed all that, Hatch says that some of the church's members have some crazy stories of the things that they cleaned in the process of rehabbing the building. While it was a good home – to the point where Greenhouse had considered purchasing the Masonic Temple – rules governing what can and can't be done to a historical building meant that the church's future plans couldn't happen in that space.
“The ability to divide up space and make it what we want it to be is a really big upgrade for us, as opposed to taking a building as-is,” Hatch explains. While he's quick to note that Greenhouse's former space served them well for the six years they were there, as well as it being pretty cool to bring new life into an old building, finding a permanent home that fits them better is a wonderful thing.
“We lost a little bit of storage space under the sidewalks, but other than that, it's the exact same footprint,” offers the pastor when I comment as to how big their new location feels. The office space upstairs was quickly converted into kids' classrooms for Sunday mornings, which the pastor says is a big improvement from the previous children's space, which was one big open basement, subdivided with partitions. “There's natural light in the kids' rooms, which is huge. There's a lot of families that come and having them go down to the basement – as nice as we had made it – these new spaces feel much more modern.”
Greenhouse closed on their new location – a former Buffalo Wild Wings and Jazz: A Louisiana Kitchen – in July of 2018, and then had their first Sunday in mid-December.
While there was still work to be done, like clear-coating the concrete floors, or getting the cafe up and running, getting the new space up and running has happened remarkably quickly: “I keep running across old photos of things we were doing in here four or five months ago, and I'm like, 'Oh, my gosh, this is crazy how much things have changed.”
“We dreamed: like, 'Maybe sometime, five years down the road, we'll open a cafe in here,'” Hatch says of how the new space has changed what Greenhouse can do. “And in this space, there's already a kitchen. We figured out that, 'Oh, we can open a cafe in the next year.' So, that was really huge.”
The list of positives is huge: a better heating and cooling situation, that aforementioned natural light, and – while not quite as obvious, but still really big – accessibility. There are big plate-glass windows out front, which make for a much more inviting appearance.
“That building – for all the history and beauty and stuff that goes with it – it's a pretty imposing building,” says Hatch of the Masonic Temple. It was a building built for a secret society, and regardless of whether the door was painted an inviting bright green, it still had that feeling to it. “That's not the vibe we're trying to put off. The windows out front are part of that: you can walk by at any time, and see what's happening.”
What's happening is pretty great: Greenhouse, in late February, opened a cafe, with 50% of the proceeds from its sales going to fight human trafficking, a cause which the church has long been supportive of. The cafe is something that the church hopes serves the city well, and speaks the language of Lawrence – they're focused on creating a comfortable space, rather than somewhere visitors feel like they might get a presentation on the four spiritual laws.
“We want to support the stuff that we feel passionate about,” continues Hatch with a smile. “It gets us really excited. We want to create a space that, really, anyone feels comfortable and welcome in. The whole point is to just create a space for people to hang out.”
The soft opening party on the last Friday of February drew a packed house – Hatch mentions that they made nearly 500 chicken nuggets to sample out to curious passers-by – and the pastor is really happy with the response from both church members and the public.
“That night felt like such a huge pay-off for the amount of work that we put in this place,” he says. Doing all of the demo and finish work themselves (the construction was contracted out) while running the church and starting a new business had meant 8 months of “just craziness.”
“Finally, that night, it was like, 'This is what we've been working towards,'” Hatch says with no small amount of relief. Since then, the cafe has been open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 7am-3pm, and Greenhouse has had no small amount of great feedback. “We've gotten great reviews from both people that we know and people that we don't know. I'm going to go broke and get fat, eating down there all the time.”
Part of the amazing story of Greenhouse's cafe is the fact that Hatch's mom, Sherri McGuffin, is the general manager. She came to the cafe after nearly 35 years working for KFC, and she's been part of the development process since the concept was first developed, back in September of 2018.
“Long before there was ever a cafe,” McGuffin says. The family aspect doesn't just stop with the relationship between her and Hatch, though – the development of the cafe's recipes took place in pastor Schulz's house: “We bombarded his kitchen: myself; Brianna, my kitchen manager; and Debbie, who's Jarod's mother-in-law.”
The recipes they developed weren't just pulled from cookbooks and the Internet, though. McGuffin and her crew sourced recipes from members of Greenhouse's congregation. That signature gluten-free fried chicken recipe they use to make their nuggets and chicken sandwiches?
“That was a recipe from a member of the church family,” McGuffin says, all happy. “Hand-cut, hand-breaded – we do a lot of work for that one, but it's crispy and has just such a great flavor to it.”
Greenhouse is also out in the community on a food-related tangent, with members volunteering at the Lawrence Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen, or LINK, every other month and Blue Collar Press president Sean Ingram's wife, Chela, was leading the charge.
“Sean was just like, 'It would be really awesome to have aprons!'” Hatch says with a laugh. “So, I sent him this circle logo thing that I had made and next thing I knew, we had aprons and they looked awesome.”
Additionally, the press donated over 100 shirts for the Greenhouse float in 2018's St. Patrick's Day parade. It's been a really great relationship through and through, the pastor continues.
“I started working with Blue Collar at the church I worked at in Olathe,” says Hatch. “We started ordering all of our stuff from them. So, when we moved out here, and it was more of the local place to go, it was even more of an 'Of course we'd go to Blue Collar.' We've always had great interactions. All of the people I've worked with there have been super, super easy to work with.”
The pastor mentions that he's dealt with other companies for merchandise in the past, and customer service has been “lacking,” so he appreciates that he's never had that vibe or any sense of pretentiousness from anyone at Blue Collar Press, and that working with them has always been super-easy.
“I remember the first t-shirt order that I was in charge of for this place,” the pastor recalls, saying that there must have been a dozen different variations. “One person wants it on long-sleeve, another wants it on woman's short-sleeve in this color, and all of our designs were like four or five colors, and I don't think we had formatted some of them properly, and all of this stuff. But everyone was cool. Everybody was like, 'No big deal,' they were able to handle it, and it was just awesome.”
While Hatch doesn't know everything Blue Collar does, Greenhouse's experience with the press has been so positive, he says, that for any future branding needs, they'll be calling.
Story: Nick Spacek
Photos: Austin Snell