Tag Archives: Religion

Religious Themed Establishments

One of my first stories on this blog was about Graces, a bible themed bar in Grand Rapids.  Recently, the Kalamazoo Gazette had an article on Disciples Cafe,  a Christian themed coffee shop located in Kalamazoo.

While I do like the Disciples Cafe name, I am not a big fan of the logo, the cross seems a little too pirate-like (I think its the angled points on the cross).  The coffee shop also embraces the theme with the decor.  A mural of Jesus on one wall and a cross shaped counter in the middle of the store are just some of the things mentioned.  No word if the owners drew their inspiration (or just purchased fixtures) from Graces.

Actually now the cross in the logo looks like toothpicks.


> wwjd braceletOnce I relocated to Holland from Chicago, I wanted to learn as much as I could about the new city I was living in, and what better place to look for this information than Wikipedia.org (since it is always 100% factual). But Wikipedia is a great resource it gives you a quick snapshot and then you can dive in and do some more research to verify or clarify what you read on the site. My digression aside, one of the more interesting tidbits I had found out about Holland on Wikipedia was that the W.W.J.D. (What Would Jesus Do) craze was started in Holland. It is my city’s claim to fame (well besides the Tulip Time festival which was featured on the Simpsons, or this heartwarming story of Tulip Time pirates). The thing is I never really bothered to look into this story much more than that. Occasionally, it would come in handy when I was bragging to my Chicago friends about how cool Holland is, but I often just left it at that. But now with West Michigan Business Blog, I actually have a reason to do some more research.

charles-sheldon2Surprisingly the whole What Would Jesus Do? Began back in Topeka, Kansas, in the 1890s, where a preacher named Charles Sheldon began using this phrase as a centerpiece of a series of sermons stories he had created for his followers. The main characters in the stories would always ask themselves “What Would Jesus Do?” when faced with difficult situations. These sermons were eventually compiled into a book called “In His Steps”. In the 1990’s a youth minister at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland named Janie Tinklenberg had her youth group read the book and begin discussing it. Tinklenberg wanted her group to have a constant reminder of “What Would Jesus Do?” so they could make the right decisions, and changed it to W.W.J.D. and had a company (Lesco Corporation) imprint it on bracelets. Interesting enough she had thought of other chotskies to print it on like pencils, pens, T-shirts, but settled on the bracelets since friendship bracelets were popular back in 1990s (just like those “Live Strong” yellow rubber bracelets, and those metal snap bracelets…note to self wrist fads are quite popular, develop a new one… WWWMBBD perhaps?)slap-13


After having a company in Lansing called Lesco to produce 200 of the bracelets, they quickly ran out, as the bracelets caught on. Lesco sold about 300,000 within the first seven years, but then they got a lucky break when in Paul Harvey mentioned the bracelets on his radio show in 1997 and sales exploded to 15 million bracelets sold in 1997 (link). It was also at this time that other companies got in on the WWJD craze, and this message began proliferating onto anything that could be imprinted, screen-printed, or silkscreened.

Amazingly Janie never got a penny of the WWJD explosion. She had failed to try to copyright the phrase until the summer of 2000. The US Patent and Trademark Office said that the logo had become too commonplace and that it was public domain, so she had no claim on it. I do find it surprising that Lesco did not try to copyright that phrase since they were the primary manufacturer and distributor of the bracelets for a good length of time. Here is the story about some of the legal debate on the whole WWJD thing and conflict of marketing Christian items.

So what can we take out of this story… Bracelets are a good fad to try to start… If you have a good idea or product, trademark and copyright it… Holland is cool, even with the way the police department handled that pirate snafu.


There was a news item in the Holland Sentinel a few weeks back about the development of a security company specializing in providing services to churchs.  Not quite sure what the market would be for this service, I would think that churchs that were already concerned for security might have already hired or worked with an security firm like Securitas or something like that.  But this new firm Church Land Security is offering specialization, ideally with expertise in securing churchs, which likely has many differences than securing a business, which general security contractors would focus on.  It might ruffle a few feathers if your church installed metal detectors before you entered, so there would be some considerations that would have to be thoroughly thought out.  Anyways here is their website (www.churchlandsecurity.com), but I question whether or not it is really the same one that is mentioned in the story,  the contact us section has the company based in Texas.  I especially like the image of the man pointing a gun right at you on the front page.  Classy.


Not the actual sign or building

Not the actual sign or building

A few years back, I had come across a story about a bar in downtown Grand Rapids named Graces. You may think that the only unusual thing about this story would be the bar’s name, but there is a good reason for that, it was a religious-themed bar. Unfortunately the original story is no longer available through the Grand Rapids Press (RobKirkbride . “Would-be bar owners plan to pour out the spirit of religion.” The Grand Rapids Press. December 10, 2002), but some remnants can still be found around the web here and here.

According to the story, former reverend, Peter Winkle teamed up with Renee Visser, a downtown business owner, to form Graces. They wanted an alternative venue for getting the message out…meaning promoting Christianity to its patrons. The bar staff were actually clergymen as well. But Winkle and Visser were not planning on forcefully pushing religion on the patrons as evidenced by this quote:  “There won’t be Bibles on the tables and the clergy won’t be wearing robes or collars, but I do envision loud music and people having fun.”

Now since this bar is no longer around and I have never seen it, I let my imagination run wild with what I think the bar was like. The possibilities are great – maybe it was based on the Old Testament exclusively, with giant murals on the walls of all the cool stories, and they would serve manna to patrons. Perhaps the bar was more focused on Jesus (most likely).  If that was the case then they would have a wide selection of breads and fish dishes to chose from, and overheard frequently would be “We need to split the bread and fish, we got more customers coming in.” The tables would seat 13,  all drinks were served out of goblets, and unconsecrated host wafers were offered as a snack at each table.

Another interesting aspect of this story is that through some sort of loophole Graces was able to get their liquor license for free from the City of Grand Rapids.  Once again  this story is no longer available but I do recall reading about the unusual way Graces obtained the license (one of the links references it as well). From what I could tell, obtaining liquor licenses can be quite the arduous task, and costly.  It is amazing that Graces got one for free. It may be a different story now because of all the restaurants shutting their doors, so there may be an influx of available licenses.

What I want more information about this place. I want to know what a religious-themed bar like Graces is like.  Has anyone ever visited this establishment?  Does anyone have links or copies of the original news story? What about more information on the unique way they obtained their liquor license? Any information you have would be greatly appreciated. Oh and the best part is I know there are some of you out there reading this blog, so be sure to read, comment and offer suggestions. Thanks.