AP NEWS

South Dakota coffee shop is memorial to beloved son

September 8, 2019
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In this Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019 photo, David and Victoria Obenauer make a toast to their new business, Joshua's Coffee House, in Hartford, S.D. The shop is named for their son who died in 2012. (Erin Bormett/The Argus Leader via AP)
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In this Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019 photo, David and Victoria Obenauer make a toast to their new business, Joshua's Coffee House, in Hartford, S.D. The shop is named for their son who died in 2012. (Erin Bormett/The Argus Leader via AP)

HARTFORD, S.D. (AP) — Joshua Obenauer never liked coffee but it was his dad’s dream to open a coffee shop in the historic John Mundt building.

The old stone structure on North Main Avenue needed a lot of love when the Obenauers bought it.

His dad planned to restore it to its former glory, so Joshua lent his hands to the task.

There he was, hands in pockets, posing for a photo next to a set of uninstalled windows.

There he was, at work between wooden beams on the second floor.

There he was, dancing to a country song on the radio while he and his dad tuck-pointed the inside of the lower apartment.

Joshua, who learned about life, God and the value of hard work from his dad, including during the family’s restoration of the Mundt, died in a job site accident in Sioux Falls while cleaning windows.

He was 22.

His father, David Obenauer, was too overcome with grief to continue work at the same pace. He restored the tin ceiling through his tears and then took a break.

“When a child dies,” David told the Argus Leader, “what happens is, part of your dreams die.”

Seven years later, the Obenauers have a new dream.

Restoration of the main floor is nearly finished, and the family will soon show off their handiwork to the public in a way that also memorializes Joshua.

Joshua’s Coffee House is set to open for business Sept. 9, with an open house scheduled for a day earlier so the family can show off their space to the community. Joshua’s will have a menu that includes food options such as soups and paninis, coffee from Coffea and hot chocolate.

Joshua loved hot chocolate, said Victoria Obenauer, David’s wife.

But it is Joshua’s legacy that makes the coffee house something more.

“There’s many, many memories here that Joshua’s a part of,” Victoria said. “From the basement to the second floor.”

More than a coffee shop

David and Victoria want to use their space and their new business to reach and help others who are struggling, including those coping with the loss of a loved one or child.

They’ve already started the work. Both became ordained pastors after losing Joshua, and have already started hosting prayer groups, bible studies and services.

“God uses our experiences, he uses our testimonies to share with others,” Victoria said.

The coffee shop is its own business. They have no intention of forcing their faith on customers, Victoria said.

“We just want you to feel the peace in here, the ambiance and enjoy it,” David said. “We’re here to serve.”

David and his family cleared away ramshackle single-story storefronts that once hung like unwanted growths of the two-story stone Mundt building. In their place now is a meticulously landscaped courtyard and garden. Customers will find a shady retreat, with comfortable outdoor seating and the calming sound of a garden fountain babbling in the background.

A corner storefront of the Mundt has already been leased to a garden shop.

Joshua’s is next door, in a sprawling, high-ceiling space that also feels inviting.

“We wanted a warm environment,” Victoria said.

Like nearly everything about the building, the interior is David’s handiwork. He lined the inside walls with cedar and made the wooden bar where customers will place their order.

When he bought the building in 2010, his first project was restoring the basement apartment, where David and Victoria still live.

Work continues on the upstairs, a former Masonic lodge where the couple plan to eventually make their home.

Remembering Joshua

A hint of a Massachusetts accent still comes through when David speaks, but he’s lived in South Dakota since 1981.

He owns and operates High Rise of Sioux Falls Inc., a professional window cleaning business that also does caulking and tuck pointing.

When David was hired to wash windows for the local Burger King stores, young Joshua — the oldest of eight siblings — used to go with and help dip his dad’s tools in cleaner.

Smart and diligent, Joshua learned from David how to figure out what kind of work was needed for a project and then re-apply those skills to other jobs.

Joshua married his wife out of high school. They lived in a fourplex Joshua bought at the age of 21 and rented out the other three units, following David’s financial advice.

Joshua loved autumn. He liked the changing colors of the leaves. He liked the approach of football season.

His life will be memorialized in the fall of 2019, when Hartford welcomes a new business to its growing and revitalized downtown.

“If Josh could look at this place now, he’d look at me and say, ‘Dad, we did it,’” David said. ”‘We did it, Dad.’”

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com