Coffee and Mars Hill

The Story Behind Storyville


Thanks for picking this up. One of my other peeves about this is that it's funded by the spare change Phelps makes from his for-profit university in Florida, Full Sail. It's a hobby paid for by private student loan debt.
Ezekiel 23:20
Thanks for the heads-up.

Psst: I heard that the gloryhole in Storyville's Ted Haggard Memorial Restroom(tm) received significant private donations from the Mars Hill management personnel.

Pass it on.

And yet, the Wild Rose is still cool with Supergenius Tattoo.
Cool...Donkey Spooge!
Is this an op ed piece? So the founder and some of the employees of Storyville go to Mars Hill. Big deal.

I certainly don't agree with everything about Mars Hill, but I can't say I vet every company I spend money on based on the beliefs of the employees who work there.

This article feels a lot more like sensationalism and less like news.
@7: It's not about the employees, it's about the owners. And anyway, the place is apparently filled with Christian employes (with Bible tattoos even!). Think that's an accident. Please. Those employes were vetted and you can believe, based on the beliefs of the owners, that no one is getting through unless they agree with their politics.

Just because you don't care whether your consumer spending supports hateful politics, that doesn't mean others don't. We vote with our dollars more than with our votes in this country. You send money their way, you promote their ideals and agenda by making these people more powerful. Failing to see that doesn't make it less true (just like denying climate change doesn't fix the fucked up weather).
Time for a kiss-in.
7, I love the smell of concern-trolling in the morning.

The clamming up about saying anything about a Mars Hill connection is a major tell. The way they act, the most likely scenario is that it is almost completely financed through MH.
Wake me when they actually use this business to brainwash unsuspecting lonely people. Until then, I can't really say I give a shit.
@7- "They probably shouldn't say anything else, they said."

It's not sensationalism to point out that a commercial establishment is a money laundering operation for a cult.
you're right, @10. lefty mchugh just registered an hour ago. smells like a shill for MH.
I'd be way more impressed if this cafe was for poor people and didn't charge money for food or coffee.
Outstanding journalism once again, highlighted by this rock-solid conclusion, based on a total lack of facts through what was obviously diligent shoe-leather digging by our intrepid reporter:

"... it seems logical that profits from Storyville will end up benefiting Mars Hill."

I just love that their name is the same as the red light district in early 20th century New Orleans made famous by the Brooke Shields movie Pretty Baby. That made me laugh.
@10, I don't think it's financed through Mars Hill, but there's a likelihood it's been used to rinse money into Mars Hill.

My concerns are 1) is a rich-guy hobby shop the right use of Pike Place Market space, 2) has money from Storyville already gone to Mars Hill, and might it again, and 3) does Storyville and its charitable work amount to Xtian greenwashing for a guy whose money comes from secular student loan debt?

As for the second question, web archives show that at some point after July this year, an Indiana evangelical pastor named Brad Ruggles took care to delete from a 2009 blog page his report that "Storyville Coffee Company has already partnered with Mars Hill Church and donated tens of thousands of dollars to their downtown church plants." See internet archive of original at">…
I suspected the affiliation when I first noticed it after leaving Radiator Whiskey last month. I was speaking with one of the folks who worked there and kept asking "Who are your investors?" and the way he kept evading the question made me suspect MHC.
Oops, bum link I put up there. And I see the last time it appeared was not this July but last. Let's try that again.">…

Free food, free coffee, values are right up front. No playing hide-the-affiliation.
Lots going on here. Long thread on Reddit. Also on Cornichon:
It's a peeve of mine that churches are tax-free, and the fraud of these for-profit online universities is outrageous. But why would a church need a money-laundering business?
I had been puzzled by the bound and embossed novella-like invitation I received for this place. I thought it might have been another Starbucks spinoff. Apparently not.
@ 23 - Yeah, that was my first red flag, too. I mean, who does that? What a ginormous waste...

I decided to keep my 'invitation', and I'm going to turn it into something useful by gluing blank pages on top of all their artsy photos with the fancy lighting...

But they'll never see so much as a dime from me. Thanks, guys, for the DIY sketchbook, though!
When I heard their name I figured it was a New Orleans prostitution themed coffee house. Perhaps they should have done some research before naming it "Storyville."
@22- Putting your buddies in do-nothing management positions (which aren't on the church books), hiring church affiliated contractors to do all your construction (part of which is re-donated to the church), putting the lower ranks of your church in low-paying service positions they stick with because they don't want to offend the church (which pads the profits and keeps their time and effort in the church), and putting cash into the pockets of the people above that never makes it onto the church books.
Thanks for this. I have no interest in spending any of my money in a place that even 'might' support somewhere like Mars Hill.
@19 the link doesn't work for some reason -- but you can paste in the path.

Are you certain the post was deleted? Maybe it scrolled off the timeline since it's from 2009?

It's certainly quite an advertorial for storyville.
Fuck these people.
Fuck the Stranger!!!!
@26, I think of that non-profit skimming, rather than money laundering. The CEO of the Red Cross takes $1m/year and the Goodwill CEO takes $700k. What happened to leading by example? In any case, I'm not someone who would ignore the background and go to Chik-Fil-A or Papa Johns.
@28, for some reason that direct Wayback link just refuses to work. Oh well. Here's a link to the blog post as it appears today. No mention of Mars Hill.…

Paste that same address into, and you'll see the most recent snapshot, July 2012, leads off the "Giving It All Away in May" paragraph with the Storyville donation of tens of thousands to Mars Hill.
Here's the link Tomgus was posting:

Like Chandira said in @27, I would choose to avoid somewhere that even MIGHT benefit Mars Hill... but it does feel a little unfair to publicize this before knowing all the details. Then again, if someone doesn't want to give you those details, will we really be able to find out?
Yeah, saw this on Reddit a couple weeks ago. They had no real details then, and you weren't able to find any details now. This is extremely shoddy journalism. It's pure hearsay.
Always fun to see Mars Hills web minions come out of the woodwork on stories like this @7 and @34.
I hate Mars Hill as much as the next gal, but this doesn't seem to be much of a story. I think their religion is shit, but they're allowed to it and they're allowed to own businesses and then spend or donate that money how they see fit.

Now, if they really are discriminating in their hiring based on religious affiliation/beliefs or sexual orientation then you might have something.

This speculative stuff just makes you look malevolent. These folks do and publicize enough stupid shit on their own. You don't have to try to turn all of their actions into evidence against them.
Lissa, you're a wizard! Thank you.
And leek - I could not for the LIFE OF ME get that to work! Appreciate the assist.
@36: But would you want to unwittingly spend your money at Storyville cafe?
I look forward to a series of articles by The Stranger looking into the religious affiliations of all businesses in Seattle.
Chez Shea...
Wow! You open minded Seattle folks sure are tolerant of diversity. Way to go!
@41: Right, fixed, thank you!
This story could have been written in a one-sentence blog post:

"The owners of Storyville are involved with Mars Hill Church."

Here’s the thing. The owners and investors of Storyville have and continue to have some sort of affiliation or connection to Mars Hill Church. This is a fact. So if Mars Hill is not the homophobic and misogynistic cult that they appear to be, the Storyville people should embrace their affiliation with a group they believe in. The fact that they have actively been trying to downplay the involvement of Mars Hill Church with Storyville, and the fact that even the Mars Hill Church going workers appear to be ashamed to admit their affiliation with Mars Hill Church leads to the conclusion that Mars Hill Church is very much the homophobic and misogynistic cult that we all believe them to be. Even Mars Hill Church members are trolling the comments here to downplay Mars Hill Church’s involvement with Storyville. Storyville’s churchgoing owners will not be getting any of my money.
@ 7 - I care. It is relevant to me, and I'm sure it is relevant to many others. I don't want my business to support those people if I can help it, and it doesn't sound like they are upfront about the fact that their company (probably) has a significant political motivation. It's nice to know this before you give them your money and find out that the company is making massive tax free donations to conservative religious causes.
Let's see if this link will work to the post. http://downtownseattle.marshillchurch.or…">…

"God has used Storyville Coffee to bless Mars Hill Downtown. Since the Downtown campus has been planted Storyville has donated tens of thousands of dollars worth of coffee, supplies, and equipment. God is continuing to use Storyville to bless people and advance the gospel message"

That seems to be directly opposite to the claim of "As a company, we are not affiliated with any religious organization of any kind."
Let's see if this link will work to the post.">…

"God has used Storyville Coffee to bless Mars Hill Downtown. Since the Downtown campus has been planted Storyville has donated tens of thousands of dollars worth of coffee, supplies, and equipment. God is continuing to use Storyville to bless people and advance the gospel message"

That seems to be directly opposite to the claim of "As a company, we are not affiliated with any religious organization of any kind."
Peeps. Slog doesn't understand Wayback URLs. You must tiny-ize.

Mars Hill hates fags. This coffee joint if run by Mars Hill. The Stranger is run by fags. The Stranger hates Mars Hill.


Don't go to Mars Hill or this coffee joint.

It's just that easy.
My boyfriend and I stumbled upon the soft opening on Sunday and took a peek inside. Although dressed in gay Seattle appropriate dress lumberjack, the hostess gave us a thorough once over as if we were vagrants trying to shop at Neiman Marcus. Would rather brave the camera happy tourists across the street at Starbucks than ever return there again. Thanks again Stranger !
This place gives off a vibe of contrived urban sophistication. But it has no soul. It's soul is over at Mars Hill. That explains why.
Check out the comment on this story:…

If that's NOT Mars Hill talking, then they're doing a pretty good job of making the church's lips move....

(Ew. Church's lips. Eww.)
42, embracing diversity doesn't mean embracing bigotry.

you arrive at this conclusion when you learn the definition of 'diversity,' instead of using 3rd-hand information to attack things you don't like or agree w/.
@54 Do you think that hospitals run by Catholics shouldn't be patronized by people that disagree with the Catholic church?
@55, people who believe that life after death is better than life itself, have no business opening hospitals. I would never patronize such an establishment.
Too bad for you @56, the nuns run the best hospitals in the nation.
@57, is that so?…

Looks like the life after death morons don't rate at all...
This article reminds me of the "boycot Disney" ideology that was present amongst ultra conservatives in the 90s. We fear the "other."
This article reminds me of the "boycot Disney" ideology that was present amongst ultra conservatives in the 90s. We fear the "other."
SESSion 1: REvERSE-EnginEERing YouR LiFE
© 2005 Mark Driscoll and Jon Phelps. all rights reserved.…

Close enough link for all the neigh-sayers?
There is no fear here. Just hate mongering from a cult that seattlites refuse to support.
@62 Sadly enough Seattleites support the cult for it to have several venues. Apparently any message can be swallowed if it is packaged as entertainment for the 18-35 crowd in Seattle. I wish more Seattleites would find fellowships of religious or spiritual expression that didn't ask for "contracts" or get into "shaming" and "shunning" but apparently American white youth really buy those tactics as a community expression of God. That is until it happens to them.
Confessions of a Reformission Rev.: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional ...
By Mark Driscoll
Acknowledgements include "Jon Phelps of DC=3 Entertainment has been a mentor in ways of which he is unaware."
God is #1, Phelps #3, Mars Hill elders #9, wife and kids #13.
/...Worship Track

Worship Pastor Tim Smith of Mars Hill church will be hosting a worship track featuring Bill Platt, Jon Phelps, Vernon Rainwater, Paul Engle and others. ...

Jon Phelps is the founder of Full Sail which is America’s largest audio and video college, founder of DC-3 entertainment, media genius and evangelist extraordinaire. ...

Thank You!
Mark Driscoll…
who clears there own table anyway?
So Storyville. What about any other coffee houses in town with Mars Hill backing?
Ghost Market Tours opened a new coffee shop at the market. Smaller, simpler, with dark beer and no anti-gay or misogynist sub-agenda.
Mars Hill is one of the creepiest organizations ever to slither into the Pacific Northwest. Mark Driscoll is beyond weird, a closet case if there ever was one - a la Ted Haggard, a fellow hateful gay man with five kids.

Now a bunch of the Mars Hill followers have taken their tax-free money & laundered it into a coffee shop. Just like organized crime before them, these evangelical mafia bozos have secreted funds away & are trying to pass themselves off as regular Northwesterners ...hats off to Bethany & The Stranger for exposing these weirdos for what they really are.
The Brad Ruggles blog archive on Storyville:
I researched how this business is licensed to make sure it is not getting away with non-profit status. It is legit. The officers are the following people (public record)
Governing People:


I do agree, this is probably another way for them to launder money. No surprise there at all. My suggestion would be to write a letter to the IRS so the IRS audits them frequently.

What would be AWESOME is to send some people in wearing Gay pride shirts and record how they get treated by the people in this place. Then report that to the media and also the Pike Place organizers who are leasing the space out to them.
most importantly, $32 a pound coffee is an insult to both God and man!
@ 53 - Dang it, I should have taken a screen shot. OF COURSE the comment has been pulled.

It went something like this: "Sadly, homosexual relationships often end this way. Feel free to come down to Storyville Coffee in Pike Place Market to enjoy some wonderful Mars Hill fellowship, and great coffee!"

I'm paraphrasing, but yeah... that was it.
I love when a religion whose foundation is humility and generosity goes and takes it to a whole new sexy level complete with overpriced nonsense and that whole "Christian is cool!" veneer.

Just stop. Embrace your Christianity if that's your thing, but stop trying to pitch your religion like it's some hip new company whose primary product is salvation.
I went to Storyville and thought it was damn good coffee, pastries and ambience. I don't care if the owners worship the martians from Independence Day and use the money they make to build a satellite to communicate with them - Storyville is better than Starbucks and I'll take that any day of the week.
Whatever happened to the quaint american notion of freedom of religion, and that what people do with their personal life is their own business. Or do we only need to be tolerant of people we agree with?

As an atheist, I have no use for the Mars Hill church, or any other. But where does such intolerant thinking lead? Can we not go to a café owned by Jews, because they oppress Palestinians, nor one owned by Catholics, because they support abuse of altar boys, nor Muslims because they oppress women, nor Mormons ...

The author talks about the MHC's intolerance but this article doesn't display much tolerance as far as I can tell. Given that this is the "Food & Drink" section, couldn't you just stick to that?
Not bad for a bunch of drug money to launder. The Stranger should do a story on how the Storyville coffee roaster on Bainbridge hasn't been open in six years but they somehow clear millions on "Internet" sales through that place.
Thank you for reporting this. I went to their soft opening in September. The space is beautiful, the pastries are delicious, the coffee is meh, and the staff are overbearingly smiley and a little zombie-like. I won't be going back.
What's up with pastors getting into the cafe business? Is it a "coffee hour" thing? The NYT had a story about another one a few weeks ago:…
I'm usually all about the Stranger slamming Mars Hill, but this is too speculative for my tastes. On the one hand, it is good to take seriously what businesses do with our money. On the other hand, it needs to be distinguished in which direction the cash is flowing (is it MH --> Storyville or Storyville --> MH) and whether the concern is that the company itself is directing money towards MH or whether the employees and owners are doing so as individuals. If it's the latter, well, there are thousands of Mars Hill employees in Seattle who give money to Mars Hill on a regular basis.

It's fine to be upset about companies supporting Mars Hill, but there was too much speculation for me to get upset about it personally.
Also, the Radical Reformission was published way before 2009, which I know because I'd never heard of Mars Hill or Driscoll until my brother brought that book home from college in 2005 or so.
Also, what I meant in my first comment is there are thousands of people working around Seattle who give money to Mars Hill, not that Mars Hill employs thousands around here.
Do any of you people even know what "money laundering" is? It doesn't sound like any of you do. It's like freaking Office Space in this thread.
Papaperu, When you buy a product in bulk from South America, say "coffee", and then you never actually sell any coffee for 6-7 years but report millions of dollars in sales of said "coffee" via the Internet (from a warehouse and roaster that hasn't a had an employee inside in over half a decade), it is most likely a front operation to off load another South American product instead. If their third anniversary party was any indicator of what these people are really like (hookers and blow spilling out of limousines at the Triple Door), then yes, I think it is a money laundering operation for drug dealers. A way for them to clean the drug money they earn selling their real product in bulk. it makes them appear legitimate.
Jeeze you commenters act like these guys are the fuckin Nazi's. Their not.

I live and work Downtown. I got an unsolicited invite in the mail. I took them up on their offer and made a reservation for two.

I went with my boyfriend, an obviously gay couple.

Service was top notch, staff was better than most coffee shops in King County. Totally blew the green haired monster out of the water.

I don't know what you naysayers are bitching about. They had gay employees for one. Cute gay employees. So that kinda debunks the homophobic myth. If I thought they were homophobes I would be the 1st one bitching about it.

I don't care what church they belong too. Is church such a bad thing? Its not like they belong to one of the gangs that run 3rd & Pine, or even worse the SPD. So what they belong to Mars Hill. I don't agree with everything the Amish have to say, but I still like their furniture.

I had two mochas, and two cinnamon rolls for free.... they offered more but I try not to act like a pig in public. I sat down in a very comfy leather recliner right next to the fireplace, and really enjoyed myself. So I don't know what you guys are griping about. Reminds me of a bunch of bitchy old ladies. The only thing I thought would be a drawback is the prices... it is not cheap. But I think it is the nicest coffeeshop in the area. I am going to go tomorrow.

My thoughts are: It is a nice upscale coffee shop, with personalized service in a land of Walmart type coffee shops. I think it is welcome addition to the Market.
Attention commenters...

Anyone that thinks a church needs to launder money through a coffeeshop is...well... stupid.

A church is the best money launderer there is. And then, they don't even have to pay taxes on their "tithes and offerings". Most of which is "donated" from "anomyous" sources. And I am not referring to the little bits of cash in the offering plate, I am talking about "people" donating land, bus companies, entire estates to the church. When a home/building is donated to the church nobody ask how it was purchased as long as their a deed. Same with entire estates.

The point is, no church needs anyone else to launder their money for them, they are the best in the business.

Lighten up folks, its just a coffeeshop.
lulz...who uses a privately owned, tax-liable business to "launder" money for a tax-exempt organization? Moronic.

Besides, even a half-assed attempt at where Storyville's profits go will tell you it has nothing to do with Mars Hill.
Mars Hill is the most judging church I've ever been in. I'm not a Christian and when I was seriously trying to find God, Mars Hill made me want to run in the other direction.
Please don't support a bunch of lying "Christians". The starting pay is something like $15 after they brainwash you for three weeks and make sure your good enough. I call bull shit.
Storyville was a client. They creeped me the fuck out from the moment i met them. Refused to deal directly with them anymore. There is no chance of any daylight between Storyville and Mars Hill. They're intertwined. They are on one hell of a 'holy mission', complete zealots. But in usual style, Phelps rips of so many kids trying to get an education at Full Sail. I'll never take a step in that place.
I saw #7 coming out of Mars Hill Church.
#87, joshua206: Your saying "they have gay employees-cute ones too!- so they must be OK" is like Ted Nugent's saying "I have a Democrat cousin so I must have a brain."

What you saw was the FRONT. The behind the scenes people who pocketed your money as you were ogling Storyville employees are the homophobic misogynistic cultists who run Mars Hill Church.

If you don't care about that, then perhaps you also don't have a brain.

Judging by your comment's first sentence, you also need to check out Godwin's Law and the difference between "they're" and "their."
Is it a 501c3 corp? If not, then no big deal.
@55: Find me a hospital that doesn't have Catholic affiliations, and I'll stop asking them to remove the crosses from the walls in my room when I have to visit.
@96 This story is about a coffee house. Go bitch about your religious bias someplace else.
It's really quite simple: Don't like religion with your coffee? Don't go to this coffee joint.
I have attended Mars Hill on many occasions, and find the sermons to be based on the Bible. The topic of homosexuality is not discussed overmuch, but when it does come up, yes, it is named as sin. You may disagree with the Bible (I have questions about it), but that's what it says and Mars Hill preaches it straight. There's no hate speech a la Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist church.

As to "misogynistic", Mars Hill urges their male patrons to marry, not live with, their partners, get jobs to support them, be there for them, and love them as Christ loved the church. A great blessing for women, and if you attend there you will see they look pretty happy.

Best thing you could do if you are ignorant about Mars Hill is attend services and judge for yourself; most things look different in real life than they do in print.
Funny. I work down in Pike Place Market. I heard there was a new cafe, and that they were giving away free coffee and pastries, so I went to check it out on my lunch break. I took the elevator upstairs, stood in the line, filled out their guest list, got my free stuff, and sat down to eat. Everything was pretty tasty. But after being there for a while, with no book and no one to talk to, I just started looking around. That's when I noticed all the weird slogans all over the walls: "Love everybody", "Never hurt anybody", "We come in Peace"... It creeped me out, and I thought to myself, "This place feels like it's a cult disguised as a coffee shop!" That was before all the rumors about their connections to Mars Hill. Thanks for writing this article. I've been showing it to all my friends in the Market who keep going back to that place (I wouldn't put it past Storyville to add "something" to their coffee that keeps people wanting more). Also, the people who work there are WAY too happy. I tried to tip my barista (especially since I didn't have to pay for anything) but he refused my offering with a huge smile on his face, and said

"No, we aren't accepting tips."

I never went back there.

They also have a bunch of people in black suits on really nice bicycles riding around the Market. Some of them are wearing weird red masks over their heads, so you can't see their faces. It's really creepy...
Wait, why is it 'logical' for a coffee business to just hand over its profits to a church? Have you ever had a small business? It's not that easy. And just think of the tax nightmare... Remain skeptical of your logical conclusions please.