What do you get when you cross a church with a coffee shop? A seven-day work week.
Not that Scott Klaudt complains. In fact, after eight years of hard experience, he’s finding success in the nonprofit Zootown Church on South Brooks Avenue and its for-profit Zootown Brew on Broadway.
“I always knew I was going to be a different kind of preacher,” Klaudt said. “American Christians always try to stand out, and we just wanted to fit in. We wanted to be legitimate in the community and pay taxes. It’s cool to have a space where people could come and feel the love of Jesus and meet Christians in a different way.”
The southside church that started with 25 people in 2011 now attracts about 1,500 people to weekly services in the former Vann’s Appliances building. The staff has grown from Scott and his wife, Jenny to about 25 people, including a fulltime manager for Zootown Brew.
“They have dedicated their lives to serving others and teaching truth,” said Dani Smith. “Zootown Brew has turned into one of the finest coffee shops in Missoula, and Zootown Church serves our community in many ways including a Veteran’s Day dinner, hosting Project Homeless Connect and offering life-giving services every week.”
While the Klaudts work hard to express Christian principles in the coffee shop, Scott said he didn’t want a “bait-and-switch” feel where customers come for a drink and get a sermon. The downtown space has a wide-open rental policy. It has held political candidate meetings, LGBT community gatherings and art shows, among other things.
Klaudt said his mentors and financial backers were essential to overcome the organizational challenges of his early years. One older pastor he knew advised him to keep learning every new type of technology that comes along. That’s proved essential as both the church and coffee shop rely on social media.
“Geoff Sutton has been an amazing landlord,” he said. “Not many guys would let you tear their building apart when you’re leasing it. It’s been an entrepreneurial thing. We made a ton of mistakes, but we pushed forward with it.”