WAPAKONETA — When Coffe Amor owner David Tilton quit his corporate job to work as a missionary in El Salvador, he had no idea the decision would forever alter the course of his life.
“Prior to that, I was just chasing money and other stuff that didn’t matter,” Tilton said as he clenched a cup of coffee he brewed in his Wapakoneta cafe. “I realized I wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I wasn’t happy, so I decided to re-prioritize my life.”
For most of his life, Tilton said he was a “convenient Christian” who only spoke with God when he needed something. Several years ago he decided to become more involved in his church, participating in small group sessions at his congregation. It was there he met an organization called Christ for the City International, a missions group that operates in 16 countries.
Christ for the City asked Tilton if he’d be interested in a long-term position in El Salvador. After eight years of inquiries, Tilton finally said yes. He went all-in, quitting his lucrative corporate job and selling many of his worldly possessions.
“About two months later I was in El Salvador, living in a tiny room with five other guys,” he said. “There was no hot water, no TV — very rough conditions. I questioned many times why I was doing this, but God was just breaking me in half to build me back up.
“It turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Tilton would go on three more mission trips after El Salvador, one of which was to Bolivia. Down the street from his mission house was a cafe and roastery, where he saw the entire process of how coffee beans are roasted, brewed and served.
“I was kind of fascinated by it,” he remembers. “As I learned more and more, I just got the coffee bug.”
When he returned to his hometown of Lima, he purchased a small roaster and moved back in with his parents. With a 150-pound bag of coffee beans, Tilton began roasting in his parent’s kitchen. He then purchased a larger roaster, and started selling his homemade coffee at farmers markets, as well as wholesaling to local business such as The Meeting Place on Market.
Soon after, he met Gabrielle Cziraky, who would become his girlfriend and business partner. Through Cziraky’s expertise in marketing, communications and graphic design, Coffe Amor started gaining notoriety in Lima and the surrounding community.
With a desire to interact with customers and spread their humanitarian mission, the couple decided to open their own cafe. After months of planning and renovations, Coffe Amor opened Oct. 1 in Wapakoneta.
The owners roast their coffee beans in-house, and everything is made to order. The menu features a house blend, as well Italian espresso and seasonal options such as pumpkin pie and peppermint lattes.
But what really makes Coffe Amor unique is Tilton and Cziraky’s desire to help others. They donate 10 percent of all proceeds to local and international non-profit organizations such as Christ for the City and the West Ohio Food Bank.
Coffe Amor supports soccer programs for at-risk youth in El Salvador, helping steer young people away from gang life. They have helped a little girl in El Salvador attend school and plan to create a scholarship program for more children. They are also becoming involved in local organizations such as Mercy Unlimited in Wapakoneta.
Tilton said their desire to help those in need goes back to their mission work in Central and South America.
“That’s really what changed my perspective on life,” he said. “It made me take a step back and realize that the car I drive or the number in my account doesn’t matter. What matters is what you do in life and how you love your neighbor.
“That’s the core value of our company — spreading hope through coffee.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima