Nonprofit bringing cafe to former Anna’s Gifts & Home Decor building

JACKSON, MI – Since it began six years ago, Jackson nonprofit SOAR Café and Farms has strived to heal and house women who experienced trafficking, incarceration, addiction or abuse.

SOAR, which stands for “She Overcomes And Rises,” will look to fulfill that mission in a new home, with plans to transform the former Anna’s Gifts & Décor building, 401 N. Mechanic St., into a cafe, CEO and Founder Michelle Cochran said.

“It’s going to be a mentoring cafe because we’re going to be coaching ladies through employment of the cafe, and helping them gain more freedom and get back to sustainability,” Cochran said.

SOAR has operated out of the former Woman’s City club building at 300 S. Brown St., to house some women in need of services since 2019. Moving into a new facility will allow SOAR to support these women in other ways, such as employment and mentorship.

Related: Historic Jackson house renovated for women who have survived abuse

Anna’s Gifts & Décor, which closed at the beginning of 2023, offered a small cafe in the front of the store called Anna’s Porch Café, which shut down in 2021.

The building was purchased by Cornerstone Properties of Mid-Michigan’s owner Mary Garcia, who is also a SOAR board member. Garcia purchased the building with the intent to lease the facility to the nonprofit, she said.

“SOAR is a passion project for me,” Garcia said. “I’ve seen the success of the program, and if I can make a small contribution to continue that and expand that beyond just the residential program, it was always Michelle and mine’s vision.”

Related: ‘Nobody responded.’ Unanswered job listing forces Anna’s Porch Café to close after 23 years

Residents of SOAR, or even women in the community living with similar circumstances, will be able improve their work skills, make connections with the community and build their resumes by operating the cafe.

Eventually, it is the hope of Cochran to see the women outgrow it and move into the workforce.

“They (can) work there as long as they need or want to,” Cochran said. “When they are done getting the skills and education they need there, they move on to bigger and greater things and more ladies come and take their place.”

Once open, SOAR would like to serve a farm-to-table style menu with breakfast and lunch options. They are also hoping to incorporate a few items from the former Anna’s Porch Café’s menu, she said.

SOAR will also offer closed off sections for groups and meetings, a grab-and-go section, some retail space and some membership cubicles in the 10,000 square foot facility, Cochran said.

Proceeds from the cafe will go toward continuing to run Soar’s programs and the cafe, Cochran said.

Some renovations need to take place before this dream comes true. The cafe portion of the building will be relocated to the center of the store, and the porch will be transformed into cubical spaces.

The nonprofit is fundraising to purchase furniture, equipment and appliances with a goal of $90,000. People can donate to this effort through the SOAR website.

Construction will likely start in January, with a targeted completion of May of 2024, Garcia said.

Cochran is looking forward to offering a cafe inside of this location again, as well as offering women the place to grow and learn skills, she said.

“We’re excited about serving the community and serving the women we serve,” she said.

More information and updates can be found on SOAR’s Facebook page.

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