Mars Hill, the little coffee shop with a large living room—as they like to say—is in its 10th year, and aside from serving fresh roasted, good coffee, it appears that it’s the place’s heart and soul that keeps the non-profit thriving.
“People ask, what’s in it for us?” said Mars Hill manager Angela “Jula” Prak. “As a team, we want to give back to the community. We see a lot of hurt and broken people. We know a lot of the town’s homeless population by name. They are free to come here and relax, use the bathroom and have a glass of water.”
Mars Hill is a non-profit business, owned and operated by inChrist’s Church. The name comes from the Bible, referencing the Apostle Paul’s Sermon on Mars Hill in Acts. Like the Mars Hill of ancient Athens, Mars Hill Coffee is meant to be a place for people to gather.
“The location was kind of hand-picked by God,” Prak said. “”We’re right by SVS and Hope Services, so Mars Hill has become a daily outing for them. They can come in here and be part of the community without feeling like a burden.”
It’s more than a coffee shop. Compared to the square footage they have, about 4000 square feet, the staff think of themselves as a small coffee shop with a big living room. Or perhaps more accurately, your grandmother’s house.
“We like to think the décor is thrown together, nicely,” Prak said. “”We want it to look like someone’s living room or someone’s grandmother’s living room. It’s very eclectic.”
inChrist Church is a little church along Airline Highway that shares the building with Hollister Montessori School. While the baristas are paid a wage, any profits earned are used to pay for supplies and rent, which is roughly $4,500 a month. Anything that is left over goes to the church or is donated to local charities like the Hollister Pregnancy Center.
“The church has dwindled a little in the last few years in size, but the people who are still there have their whole hearts in this place,” Prak said. “God gave us this place, and he has entrusted us with a coffee shop, and it’s for his reasons that we keep on going.”
Mars Hill tries to be a local as possible. The coffee is from Santa Cruz Roasting Company, and they make their cookies and scones in-house. While the cookies are made in a large batch and frozen at the beginning of the week, Mars Hill baristas start their day by making the biscotti.
“We have a super small staff; It’s kind of like a family,” Prak said. “We have eight regular baristas and me, and my mom manages the place. It’s been really fun. Some of the baristas are still in high school, and some others are in college. It’s a great in-between job.”
Mars Hill is a regular meeting place for various local groups. Since customers don’t need to buy anything to use the common area, it’s a popular place for students, church groups, Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops, union members, or those in the community who just need a place to dry out and stay warm.
“This is a place where we can serve the community,” Prak said. “You don’t need to buy anything to use the space. It’s a safe space where you can meet with people, hang out, have meetings or just if you need a place to dry out.”
At Mars Hill, it’s common to say that, “everyone has a Mars Hill story.” Indeed, Prak has one of her own.
“I started working here after college,” she said. “I met my husband here, and five years later we’re married with two kids. That’s the beauty of a small town. They say this place feels like a family.”
Mars Hill, 610 San Benito Street, is open Monday through Friday, 7:30am to 8:30pm, and on Saturday 8:30am to 3pm. Mars Hill is closed on Sunday.