It’s not easy for Robin and James Buesching, aunt and nephew, to talk about why they started Heavenly Grounds Coffee House, which opened two months ago just west of Wadsworth at 8966 W. Bowles Ave.
“It all started with my father and his sudden death,” James Buesching said.
Rod Buesching, James’ father and Robin’s little brother, died on Nov. 13, 2011, at the age of 53. He had suffered from fibrosis of the heart and lungs and severe arthritis before dying of heart failure.
“When you lose somebody, everyone says they’re sorry for a week or two,” Robin Buesching said. “But then you notice it goes away.”
“And then you’re all alone,” James Buesching said.
Before his death, Rod and Robin Buesching had discussed the idea of a nonprofit coffee house. James, who suffers from seizures and had a hard time finding a job that would accommodate his medical condition, could run the shop.
The goal would be to raise money to help build a clinic in Haiti.
Robin Buesching, a registered nurse, has been going to Haiti on medical mission trips since the island nation was struck by a devastating earthquake in 2010.
“I always wanted to do disaster relief,” Robin Buesching said. “It was really bad. Once you go, though, you want to go back.”
She took Rod on one of the Haiti trips after he had completed training to become an X-ray technician. Robin is very proud that her brother persevered and earned that degree.
“(Rod) had had a rough life. So for him to go to school and graduate, it was really a miracle,” Robin Buesching said. “He was doing it for his family. … He wanted to inspire his kids.”
After experiencing the suffering in Haiti first hand, Rod wanted to do more. The brother and sister began talking about a business that could support their goal of helping the people they grew to love.
Reminders of Rod aren’t hard to find in the shop. His visage graces the label of a special blend of coffee named in his honor: Rod’s Jolt. Pictures of him adorn a “grief wall” where customers can post photos of loved ones they’ve lost.
Robin Buesching said that, after Rod died, both she and James knew they had to follow through on Rod’s plan.
“James and I weren’t really that close,” Robin Buesching said. “But the instant Rod died, I was drawn to James. I knew I was supposed to help James make this.”
James and Robin said they have felt divine guidance while working nonstop to make Rod’s dream a reality. Robin said one of their first customers, a man who had suffered a recent loss, told them, “Something told me I am suppose to come here.”
“A lot of people have come in here looking for help,” James Buesching said. “A lot of people lost people recently or are sick and dying. We understand what they’re going through, and they understand what we’re going through.”
But overall the coffee shop is about celebrating life, Robin said.
“It’s uplifting being here,” Robin Buesching said. “It’s not gloomy. It’s about celebrating.”
Robin said she wants the shop to be a haven for those in need of solace. They’re working to bring in a grief counselor for a few days each week. And she hopes that once the shop gets its 501(c) status from the IRS, she can start taking donations for the shop’s main mission: helping rebuild Haiti.
They hope the clinic they’ve been working to build will be completed by the end of the summer. On average, Robin said, they see about 200 patients a day in Haiti.
“When you go there, it gives you a different perspective on life,” James Buesching said. “You want to help everybody, but you can’t. … After working and helping these people, they become your family.”
Heavenly Grounds is open seven days a week from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Contact Ramsey Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.