Monroe coffee house offers fresh start to former felons, recovering drug addicts

Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 6:58 PM EDT
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MONROE, Mich. (WTVG) - A local coffee shop is offering a fresh start to people who have a criminal past or who are recovering from drug addiction.

Fresh Start Coffee House is located off LaPlaisance Road and their mission is to hire those who may have a hard time finding employment.

Paula Holz and her husband, Vic, opened the shop in November without any prior experience in the business.

“We didn’t know what we were doing and we needed to learn how to run a coffee shop,” explained Paula Holtz.

Their idea for the coffee shop was to offer a place where ex-felons and former drug addicts could find employment.

“Some have 30 years of drug addiction and others have some periods of incarcerations,” said Holtz. “My husband and I are also pastors and we have a lot of underlying purpose.”

For the couple, that purpose is personal. While they were building the coffee shop, one of their children was sent to prison for a situation involving an overdose.

“Our youngest daughter is in prison and that happened in the middle of all of this,” said Vic Holtz. “We can’t work in the prison system because she is there.”

“We felt like we could have a business that would really help people coming out of incarceration and recovering from addition,” Paula Holtz said.

Fresh Start also hires employees from the general public to help operate the shop and currently has one employee that is in recovery.

Holtz said it is common for those in recovery to miss several days of work for other obligations.

“We want them to succeed, so we give lots of chances and lots of opportunities to redo,” she said.

“One thing that struck me is their incentive is different than the average worker,” said Vic Holtz. “Usually its about money, but theirs is about recovery and regaining their life.”

In an effort to help their employees in recovery succeed, the host church services and recovery meetings inside the coffee house.

“That is where we address their hurt, their pain, the guilt and shame,” said Denise Arnold, who serves as a recovery coach at Fresh Start. “Once you are out of recovery, you aren’t using drugs, but that pain is still there.”

“It’s not your average coffee shop, it’s very relaxed here,” said Alyssa Keller, who is an employee there. “Our town needs something like this.”

Fresh Start is nestled in a former outlet mall in Monroe and is surrounded by several vacant buildings. Holtz said they are hoping to give their community a fresh start.

“We are perfectly positioned for this and when we first started, we had no idea how were were going to be challenged,” explained Holtz. “Our desire is to hire people and give them a soft place to land and a wonderful supportive community, so that their reentry has a little more friendship and a lot more love.”

Fresh Start Coffee House is open weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and is located at 14930 LaPlaisance Rd #112, in Monroe, Michigan.

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