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Coffee House an unassuming source of entertainment

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Photo by AJ Trela / Anna.Trela@Marquette.edu

Tucked away in a small room in the basement of Redeemer Lutheran Church, The Coffee House has been providing a venue for performers and entertainment in Milwaukee for more than 40 years.

The Coffee House, located across from Mashuda Hall at 631 N. 19th St., was founded by the Rev. Alan Davis and Agnes Zeidler. The nonprofit organization first opened its doors in 1967 as “a place for coffee and conversation.”

The Coffee House’s early programming included films, poetry readings, open mic nights and speakers, according to its website.

“The idea was to provide a place where young people — especially students from Marquette, area nursing schools and the Milwaukee Institute of Technology (now Milwaukee Area Technical College) — could get together and discuss the issues of the day,” according to a statement on The Coffee House’s website.

Today, it is a venue for local performers to get gigs and for musicians to perform at “open stages,” an acoustic music or spoken word event, said Joe Holland, co-manager of The Coffee House.

The Coffee House books two performers every week on Fridays and Saturdays, and has open stages every second Friday and fourth Sunday of the month, Holland said.

John Goebel, a Milwaukee native, first started coming to The Coffee House in 2008.

“I found out about The Coffee House looking through the paper,” Goebel said. “I came once or twice to see a few open mic nights, then I started to go see other performances as well.”

Goebel has performed on acoustic guitar about five or six times at The Coffee House’s open stages.

“I was always one of those people who wanted to perform, but was a little shy,” Goebel said. “Finally, after coming to watch a couple of performances, I decided to come and try it out.”

The Coffee House crowds are always forgiving and accepting, Holland said.

Holland once played an acoustic guitar gig in Milwaukee and was asked to play requests. He told the crowd he could only play songs he already knew. A man came up to him and asked that he stop playing so they could play the jukebox.

“It is nice because that kind of thing doesn’t happen here,” Holland said.

Bobby Jiles first came to The Coffee House to hear his band mate, Julie Thompson, play with Dangerous Folk.

Jiles attended many performances, but did not perform until he met Mary Gaar, the volunteer coordinator at The Coffee House.

“I met Mary at the Klavier Lounge through Julie, and she invited me to perform at The Coffee House,” said Jiles, who had his first solo vocal performance this summer.

The Coffee House is run mostly by volunteers, except for two paid managers, Holland said.

“We are still a small operation, but we have a long history here in Milwaukee,” Holland said.

Even with an increase in venues throughout Milwaukee, The Coffee House still books a good number of performers and has some regulars, Holland said.

The Coffee House is free of charge with a suggested donation and is open every Friday and Saturday night, Labor Day through Memorial Day.

Holland hopes to work toward rebuilding its relationship with the Marquette community, and said he would love to see more students attend the shows.

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  1. Tweets that mention The Marquette Tribune -- Topsy.com on September 28th, 2010 5:12 pm

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