Everett community coffeehouse in crisis, faces eviction

KING 5's Eric Wilkinson reports.

It's a place where people come for a warm cup of coffee and often end up leaving with a warm hug.

Everett's Firewheel Community Coffeehouse is a place where all walks of life are welcome whether you're white collar or more of a no-collar guy, like Bill McKinlock.

"You can be homeless, or drive up in a Mercedes. It isn't about making money so much as it is about community," McKinlock said.

For the past five years, Firewheel has served as a "town square" of sorts for conversation, music, community meetings and political discussions.

Kids without internet access can connect to free Wi-Fi to do their homework. The homeless are welcome to get out of the rain and have a cup of coffee.

All of it is free.

People love the place so much, all of the employees are volunteers.

Melissa Langlamb puts in a few hours every day. She's here for the shop because it was here for her while she was kicking a decade-long drug habit.

"I really believe this place helped save my life," she said.

Mike Lapointe is the spark behind Firewheel.

A former factory worker, and full-time idealist, he has put everything he has into the coffee shop, but the Everett economy is tough. Coffee and food sales are stagnant. His commitment to the community, however, has not wavered.

Lapointe now owes about $20,000 in back rent. He is making payments, but apparently not quickly enough for the landlord. The community is doing what it can to help, and that touches Lapointe's heart.

"A formerly homeless man was so moved, he contributed $200," says Lapointe. "When I realized he wouldn't take it back, I told him how great it was, and he said, 'God is great.'"

The shop was supposed to shut down Wednesday. Lapointe is on borrowed time. He remains hopeful, however, that the same kind of generosity and compassion he has shown to Everett will come back to him.

"If it was a business, who cares? You move on," he said. "But this is something that's needed, something I'm committed to continuing until they throw me out the door."

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the business. Lapointe said he welcomes people to come by Firewheel and visit with him in person at the shop on Colby Avenue.

"That's the just kind of place this is," Lapointe said. "We're about people helping people."

Copyright 2016 KING


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