“You’ve reached your destination. Welcome home,” is the slogan of Destinations Coffee House — a hub for community building and Christian ministry in the North Bottoms since its opening in 2010.
Owned by the Nebraska District Church of the Nazarene, Destinations was opened as a ministry for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with the intent of being a gathering place for all people and building relationships with others.
Unlike the economic downfall experienced by other small businesses due to the impacts of COVID-19, Destinations has continued to be financially stable, something that executive director Liz Christensen believes is largely due to the shop’s dedicated patrons and the community’s objective to support local businesses.
“It’s just been cool to see our doors busting at the seams,” Christensen said. “Little shops are closing left and right, so I think that people are realizing that if they don’t support where they love, they might not be there anymore.”
In March, Destinations closed due to the pandemic until Aug. 24. Christensen attributes the company’s perseverance during COVID-19 to a grant from the city of Lincoln, as well as the timing of their reopening.
“It was wise of us to close and reopen when we did,” Christensen said. “A lot of people tried to reopen too early, and that cost a lot of money. Everything we spend on COVID stuff is very expensive and in very high demand. We waited till things kind of calmed down.”
Destinations has also seen a shift in demographics due to COVID-19, according to assistant director Addison Jensen. They used to see more of a young professional crowd, but are now seeing a surge in students from UNL. The flip-flop is something Jensen credits to the fact that most coursework is online this year.
“That’s been encouraging, seeing our target audience being able to find us and showing up consistently, multiple times a week,” Jensen said. “I get groups here that are here for multiple hours during the day doing classes, and sometimes it gets to the point where I’m questioning whether they’re going to leave anytime soon or need to go get something to eat.”
Christensen said they have also observed a positive change in the students’ behavior and mental health because of the increase in online classes.
“I’ve definitely seen less students study toward the evening,” Christensen said. “I think it’s cool to see the students have an evening back to themselves to socialize safely or spend time with family. Previously, we’ve been open to 10 p.m., and students would be here till 9:45 p.m. studying.”
Cody Griess, a sophomore agricultural economics major and frequent customer of Destinations, can attest to the shop's importance to the North Bottoms community and it being a valuable space to foster relationships. Griess began going to Destinations his freshman year and since has been a regular patron twice a week because of the delicious coffee and friendly atmosphere.
“Destinations is a really good place to catch up with friends and grow relationships,” Griess said. “I meet up with my old roommate once a week at Destinations. On Thursdays, I meet up with another friend there just to catch up and talk about how our week is going. Overall, it’s just a good, safe place to build that community and connections with others.”