The Fire Escape serves coffee, Christian solace
The Fire Escape, featuring all the amenities found at Milwaukee's most popular coffeehouses, would seem to be a perfect fit for Milwaukee's ever-trendy East Side. But this non-denominational Christian coffeehouse, an outreach ministry launched by Heart-Fire Ministries, is tucked away at 819 N. 27th St.
The 50-seat facility offers an assortment of espressos, specialty coffee drinks and sandwiches -- all at reasonable prices. It's a well-lit, Wi-Fi hotspot with several Ansel Adams photographs adorning the walls. And visitors who venture in at lunchtime on Fridays will always find a coffeehouse staple -- live, acoustic music.
According to Ray Jablonski, founder and executive director of Heart-Fire, The Fire Escape's current location is exactly where he and his sons, Raymond and Tim, who run the day-to-day operations, want it to be.
"We believe in the broken-window theory," he says. "The theory says that if you have a building with a broken window, odds are that someone will come along and break another window. If you fix the window, it begins improving and that's what we want to do, set an example."
The family began making a difference in the area, which Jablonski remembers having seen better days during his youth, well before The Fire Escape opened in November 2002. It all began when Jablonski, a self-proclaimed drug addict and street fighter during his teens, was saved in 1980. He says he took the word of God to the streets the following year.
"When I established a relationship with Jesus I realized if He could help me He could help anybody," Ray Jablonski says. "I was a horrible father to my boys, a horrible husband, but He helped me turn that around."
A few years later he began serving free meals out of a truck at the corner of 27th Street and Wisconsin Avenue, helping the less fortunate while sharing God's message, he says. After doing that for about 12 years, Jablonski says he and his sons began looking for a more permanent location in the area.
"We wanted a place where people would always know we were there," he says. "We wanted to make a place that was nice for people to come into, where they would feel safe, comfortable and welcome."
And The Fire Escape, like Jablonski intended, has become a sort of oasis for area residents and passersby. While many customers first enter come for the food and coffee, Jablonski says plenty of patrons come in because they're looking to talk to someone with a sympathetic ear. And it's something The Fire Escape welcomes, he says.
"We really want a place where people can come to get to know us," says Jablonski.
Heart-Fire Ministries also operates The Freedom Center, located on The Fire Escape's second level, which offers outreach programs, Bible study and discussion, a lending library and computer labs.
Despite the growth in popularity of both establishments, Jablonski says he understands the surrounding neighborhood's negative reputation can be a turnoff for potential visitors.
"Their first reaction is 'I don't know if I want to go down there,'" says Jablonski. "The only news they hear coming out of this area is bad news."
But the Jablonskis all say they have seen the area improve since they've been there. With a 15-year lease, they're in it for the long haul.
"We don't plan on going anywhere," Jablonski says.
The Fire Escape is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Call (414) 935-1100 for takeout and the event hotline.
Denise said: What a great thing to do! I am sure your business will flourish. God will take care of you for helping his children. Just know that you will be on my prayer list. God Bless you and your family and your establishment.
1 comment about this article.
Post a comment / write a review.
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.