HICKORY – The Taste Full Beans coffee shop focuses on having an inviting atmosphere, providing quality coffee and food and giving back to the community. That’s why owners Julie and Scott Owens held the shop’s annual Customer Appreciation Day on Saturday.

“This is our ‘Thank you’ to our customers,” Julie Owens said. “We have our Everyone Eats program, and our customers continue to provide funding for that, so this is just our thank you to them.”

Customer appreciation day offered customers a free coffee bar, live music and a chance to meet the roasters behind their favorite coffees.

The music played all day, starting in the morning with holiday piano music, followed by young musicians from the Hickory Music Factory providing entertainment for customers.

The Owens bought the store four years ago, and they’ve encouraged all members of the community to enjoy the food and drink, regardless of their income or any other factors.

The Everyone Eats program is something unique to Taste Full Beans. The program offers those who might not be able to afford a meal the chance to pay what they can and still receive food.

“We feed between one and five people a day,” Julie Owens said, “The program is funded by us and we take money directly from certain products and put it into that fund.”

Not all of the funding comes from proceeds from the shop, but customers are a driving force behind ensuring the program remains funded, Julie Owens said. Sometimes people will simply donate their change to the program, other times people give larger donations, she said.

That program has become important to the population of those in need, who might not be able to make it to the soup kitchen at certain times, Julie Owens said.

“It changes the demeanor of that population,” she said, “People used to come in to get out of the cold or the heat and try and slip around the corner and hide,” Julie Owens said.

But not, the shop makes sure those people are treated like everyone else. Julie Owens encourages them to sit up front and order at the counter, and she provides those in need with coffee or tea.

The program also changes the attitudes of those in need, from being unnoticed to engaging with others in the shop.

The exclusive roasters for Taste Full Beans also attended the event, offering samples to customers and providing information about the roasting process and the company.

Jonathan Jones and Eli Ornberg founded Ingenious Coffee Roasters almost two years ago in Marion. Their business has grown from small beginnings to roasting and producing around 700 pounds of coffee each week.

The goal of Ingenious Coffee Roasters falls in line with the goals of Taste Full Beans -- to provide quality products while giving back to the community.

Several of the blends provide funds to various groups including the Rotary Club, Jones said.

For more information on the Everyone Eats program, visit www.tastefullbeans.com .

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