Trio of downtown Lexington businesses supporting women locally, globally
Walking into 121 East Main St. in Lexington, you maight not realize that you could walk out having given back to someone half a world away.
The storefront is now home to The Haven Coffee House, LimeHouse Home Interiors and Shades of Life Gallery and Gifts. A Lexington business owner for eight years with LimeHouse Home, designer Kelli Limehouse teamed up with friend Karen van Heerden to create a place for women to shop, enjoy a cup of coffee and share their hearts. The ladies also are using van Heerden’s contacts in her home country of South Africa to benefit women in need there.
After years of thinking and praying separately about their individual visions to start a nonprofit in Lexington, van Heerden and Limehouse met through mutual friends about two years ago. It didn’t take long for them to pool their resources and start Life Restored International. The ministry is aimed at mentoring women in the Midlands who are going through divorce or other hardships. The international component is focused on South Africa and MEC Ministries, which has Ray of Sunshine House — a safe home for abandoned and abused children — among its programs.
“The concept is very different,” van Heerden said of the nonprofit, store and coffeehouse combination.
“We’re not trying to recreate something that’s already here,” Limehouse added.
Life Restored was officially founded in October 2012, and Limehouse and van Heerden have been working diligently organize Bible studies, grief and loss support groups and Life Classes — a mentoring program for women. All the while, they were looking for a physical location to set up shop that could serve as a haven for people who needed a short break from their busy lives. Limehouse stressed that they aren’t counselors by any means but that their ears are open.
“If people need someone to talk to, we’ll make time,” van Heerden said.
Knowing that van Heerden had cooking skills that could be tapped to operate a coffee shop or cafe, the duo kept an eye out for available space downtown that had capacity for a kitchen and LimeHouse Home
“We wanted to be in the center of Lexington,” Limehouse said.
Limehouse recalls how quickly things fell into place after she saw a “Going out of Business” sign at Mae’s on Main dress shop. She immediately called van Heerden, and they checked out the store that day to see if it would meet their needs.
“Everything worked out,” van Heerden said.
The Haven Coffee Shop, Shades of Life and LimeHouse Home opened their doors on Sept. 13 to a large crowd of family and friends, including Limehouse’s husband, Buba, and van Heerden’s husband, Johnny, who the co-founders say have been instrumental throughout the process. The trio of business have harmonized well together with people having small meetings at the front of the space with beverages from The Haven, perusing the handmade jewelry – most created by van Heerden – at Shades of Life corner and collaborating with Limehouse over how to decorate their homes.
Limehouse said the store/coffeehouse itself turned out exactly as they’d imagined. Featuring a mix of old and new, the space has exposed brick, modern furniture and the original ceiling height restored that now lets the decorative tin tiles be seen.
“It was such a ‘God thing,’ ” Limehouse said.
After the bills are paid, proceeds from The Haven and Shades of Life are split between local and global Life Restored projects, and 10 percent of profits from LimeHouse Home are donated, too. Funds are set to be sent to a group of South African ladies on a women’s retreat along with helping to construct a Habitat for Humanity house in West Columbia for a single mother and her daughter. The Habitat house will the first major Life Restored project, and volunteers are needed to help build it over a 12-day period.
Limehouse said it’s hard to put an exact number on how many people are involved or are being impacted by Life Restored these days. Volunteers not only come into The Haven to help with the lunch rush, but ladies also are organizing support groups and getting the word out through social media.
“The number of people grows weekly,” Limehouse said. “Since day one, God has far exceeded our expectations.”
Van Heerden and Limehouse also are using their knowledge to assist other women in the small business world. Whether they are helping Lila Lecy with LLC paperwork to get her Goddess of Truffles business started or selling baked goods made by Nicole Storey of Izzabee’s Confectionaries, the duo want to be advocates for others.
“Helping women find their passion is important to Karen and me,” Limehouse said.
Response to Life Restored has been positive when Limehouse, van Heerden or volunteers share its mission. Several customers even have asked for literature about the ministry to be included in their gift wrapping so others can find out about it, too.
Once a week, The Haven has become a place not just for women to gather, but whole families. Local musicians are invited to perform Fridays, and The Haven stays open until 10 p.m. for all to enjoy the live music — and van Heerden’s desserts.
Journey in Motion Bible studies at The Haven will start Nov. 21 at 6:30 p.m. Groups will meet just once a month in November and December before gathering weekly starting in January.
Handmade jewelry and unique items from Shades of Life will be available at the Jingle & Mingle Holiday Market on Nov. 19 at the Greater Lexington Chamber & Visitors Center.
Shades of Life also will present its first fashion show at The Haven on Nov. 22. Jamaican fashion designer Maya Qobas will showcase her latest work. Tickets are $25, and proceeds will benefit Life Restored’s projects in South Africa.
The ladies still are dreaming big about what they can accomplish with help from the donors and faithful customers who will power their ministries. Although putting in long hours already, they envision expanding to reach more mothers and daughters in their town while continuing to support underprivileged women across the world through fundraisers.
“God won’t give us more than we can handle,” Limehouse said.