Local artists hope to bring mental health coffee shop to Indy

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A mental health coffee shop concept in Chicago may be making its way to Indy, along with public art for mental health awareness.

Sip of Hope has been serving folks in Chicago for a year. All of their baristas are also trained in mental health and first aid.

“The idea is coffee is the vehicle, or the conversation starter, and it’s an easy one,” said Jonny Boucher with Sip of Hope. “Be an ear because so often we don’t know how to listen.”

People have come from all over the world to visit the coffee shop, and their coffee can be purchased in 28 countries. Boucher said he was in the shop when a father from Canada came by to tell him their mission saved his daughter’s life.

“I said, ‘No, your daughter saved her own life. We were just present,’” Boucher said.

The movement caught the eye of Indy artist Holly Combs, who is spearheading the push to open the second Sip of Hope in Indy. She has a knack for bringing great movements from Chicago to the Circle City. She also brought the “You Are Beautiful” movement to Indy. Her massive artwork can be found on a building in Fountain Square.  “You Are Beautiful” creator Matthew Hoffman said he is in awe whenever he sees the phrase spread.

“When they are in giant scale, that also is sort of an experience, that it makes it undeniable that it’s speaking to you,” said Hoffman, who also has a piece in Sip of Hope. “I actually made a large cursive piece that says, ‘It’s OK not to be OK’ in the space.”

The phrase is inspiring Combs’ latest public art push. Combs found herself struggling with her own mental health issues, and when she heard the phrase it changed her life. She is now working to find a space to put up a massive art installation with the phrase..

“People see you in a certain light, and they think you are a certain thing. You are the ‘You Are Beautiful’ girl, and you help people and I’m struggling,” said Combs. “I needed to ask for help, and I was struggling, and this [phrase] made me feel like I had permission to ask for help. This is a need. We can’t put this up a year from now, we need to put this up now.”

In a meeting Tuesday afternoon, multiple developers jumped at the chance to find a place for the sign and coffee shop.

“I’ve got a couple of good ideas that’s gonna require help from some other people,” said Craig Von Deylen, president of Deylen Realty. “I think it’s important to start thinking about [mental health issues] in a different way, not as something that makes someone different, but makes people just like all the rest of us.”

Combs and Boucher said they are looking for the right financial backers and location for the shop. They want to make sure it’s sustainable. In a meeting on Tuesday to launch their ideas, members of the mayor’s office, IMPD and several organizations showed up.  The meeting had a wide mix of faiths and backgrounds. It shows the widespread need.

“We all need these reminders we are not alone,” said Trey Flowers, senior pastor at Downey Avenue Christian Church. “Oftentimes it falls on churches, and it feels like we are walking by ourselves in this process, but truth is there’s all sorts of resources in this community.”

Perhaps, we will see the latest soon.  Currently there is no timetable for the coffee shop to open.

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