Reflection From A Converted Coffee Shop Owner

By Peter M. Lee
An alumnus of Regent College, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Graduated from MCS in 1998

At Regent, I learned to listen to people’s stories. Everyone has a story to tell, and I have ample opportunities to listen. Invariably as I’m preparing the food and drink, a story will emerge from the conversation. I’ve learned not to functionalize relationships as a means for preaching the gospel, but to simply enjoy the person and what they have gone through. What they have to say I find interesting, because I’m interested in them. I can often see God’s work in their lives. I see cuts and angles in their stories that have similarities with the stories in the Bible. In the end, what I’ve found is that I’m engaging with the God of the Bible through my relationships. I have come to “see God working” as Eugene Peterson would put it.

Now, almost five years after opening The Well, we do have a loyal and growing clientele. We are surviving but the business is not flourishing. People come because they love the music, the atmosphere, and the chats they have with our staff. People frequently ask me, “When are you going to be there?” For some reason, they don’t want to set a time; perhaps that’s too intentional and too serious. They want to just “Drop by and say ‘Hi’!”, so the real important things could be said, without being embarrassed by sounding overly important.

Yet for five years, I have personalized the people, but “depersonalized” the food. In my mind, people were the main thing while I functionalized the food. But food was meant to be “tasty”. I embraced God’s people, but stepped on God’s creation. I was aware of God in my relationships with people, but I was a pagan in relation to creation and the earth. It is intriguing that the wine Jesus made was not just as good as the previously served wine. Rather, he made exceptional wine.

Just as my coach for interpersonal skills was Eugene Peterson, my “coach” for food and dealing with God’s other three days of creation is Ina Garten, the owner of The Barefoot Contessa in Hampton, New York. She is earthy, simple, unadulterated, and realizes that the best is really the closest we can get to the original creation. The way God made food.

Her motto is to make everything look beautiful without being complicated. “The meal is simpler than you expected and better than you remembered.”

Letter from Peter Lee about the Closure of our Dunbar Store

The Following is a letter from Peter Lee announcing the saddening news of the closure of our Dunbar Location.


March 18, 2011

Dear Staff, Family and Friends of The Well on Dunbar,

As an ancient Sage once said, “There is a time for everything…”
There is a time to open a coffee shop, and a time to close a shop. The Well opened up in 1997 at a time when I knew very little about business and coffee.  My intent was to be a place of friendship and a place for conversation.

Over the past 14 years, we have had the privilege to work with over hundred staff, many of whom have become more like family to us, and many now live in different parts of the world!  Over the years, we have also had the privilege to know many of you, our friends and loyal
customers of the Well.  Thank you for letting us be a part of your lives!  From this small shop, I have witnessed divorce and weddings, drunkenness, generosity, and theft; precious moments with loved ones and great friendships over coffee.  I have attended quite a few funerals in the past years, and we have seen quite a few new babies as
well, including three of my own!

Such is life.  When the block accross from us was torn down, the business environment changed in our neighborhood, and we have not been able to serve more people more effectively.  Thanks to our staff and to you, our faithful supporters over the years, we have stayed open till now.   As of April 1, our Dunbar store will be closing its doors.

Our store at Regent College/UBC will continue to serve you, and we do plan to open another store in the future.


Thank you for teaching us, encouraging us, and supporting us over the years!  Many of you have expressed your appreciation for us, and we are grateful for your comments.  I am not around the store much these
days, but feel free to contact me at 604.808.3271 or at

Please visit us at our other location at 5800 University Blvd., inside Regent College


God bless,

Peter Lee

Warning! Juice Drinking Thief

Warning! Juice Drinking Thief
By Peter M. Lee
An alumnus of Regent College, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Graduated from MCS in 1998

This afternoon, a customer purchased a glass of orange juice with a 100 dollar bill. Shortly after, the police came by, and we discovered that the bill was a counterfeit. We had been cheated by 100 dollars. Apparently, this fellow had ridden a taxi, and visited a few shops before ours. Everyone was out by 100 dollars.

The experience was shocking to know that someone would be so devious with a smile; however, it proved to be a valuable teaching experience. The exchange of unauthentic, fake items is a common occurrence, yet we do not recognize it as such until a counterfeit thief comes along to wake us all up.

The cheating that goes on is with our words. Words that are supposed to communicate often are used to conceal. For example, a simple “How are you today?” seldom ever comes back with something honest, something real. Instead, niceties are given. That is what we got this afternoon – a nice hundred dollar bill.

To be real however is not easy. Real things are often dirty, wrinkled, and unpleasant to handle, but they are authentic, genuine, and valuable. The reality of life is seldom neat and clean, yet somehow no one really wants to recognize it when asked, and responds “Fine thanks, and you?”

The thief this afternoon has robbed us of money, but whether we let it be a bad thing or not is up to us. If we could pay someone money to bring about awareness and courage to be real to people, and to treat people as real, sharing or listening to them, it would be worth far more than a few hundred dollars. The next time someone comes in to ask “How are you?”, how will you respond?

God will deal with the juice drinking thief one day, so we can rest assured that justice will be served, however, not all is good with this experience. The bad and sad thing is that there is someone out there who is lying, stealing and robbing people right under their noses. Is that what we are doing with each other? Maybe many of us are just like the juice drinking robber we had today, robbing one another of the chance to engage in a conversation between two real people.

By faith, I give thanks to God for bringing the thief our way this day. God used him as a messenger to remind us not to cheat one another of the things that God can do in and through us as we interact with people: real people.

Stories & interview

By Michael Tufaro
Grade 9, Lord Byng High School, 2002

“The sky is a shade of deep misery. Everyone but you, it seems, is warm and dry. How easy it would be to turn around and go back into the musty school from which you came. You press on, determined to break up your monotonous, painfully boring day with a bit of non-regulated life. A cultural interlude of sorts. As you round the next corner a warm glow catches your eye. A café? Walking more briskly than before, you arrive at the source in no time flat. Pull open the door, and step into the warmth that is The Well.

The Well is a welcome addition to lower Dunbar, an area sadly lacking in java-based culture. With its fresh brewed coffee, original pastries, award winning hot chocolate, and the Italian style panini sandwiches coupled with smoothies, it surely delivers on the food front. As good as this food is, it is the atmosphere that assures it a place in my heart. The first think you see as you walk through the doors is the smiling staff. Look to your left and you’ll see an artistic fountain, large windows, high backed chairs in “funky” colours, and several traditional four place tables. To your right are the condiments, up to date periodicals and fresh, crisp newspapers. Quite a change from the lumber yard, vacuum store, and the Quik-E-Mart equivalents that otherwise clutter up lower Dunbar St.

You get a certain feeling when you sit down with a tall black coffee, a Financial Post and a freshly baked brownie. You feel the soft back of the chair supporting you, the wind and rain driving outside, cars passing by, too slowly it seems. It is similar to the feeling you get if you try on an expensive suit, Armani maybe, charcoal gray. It is a feeling of having made it, even though you are far from it. It is the feeling of reading the market reports and wanting them to mean something. The thought of having a job where if you were watching CNN and something happens, you got a call five minutes ago telling you all about it. The Well delivers that feeling and maybe others, although I have yet to experience them. I guess that is one of the reasons I go back day after day, hoping that one day, on cue with my desires changing, the feeling will change. It will become my having made it, looking back on today and dreaming about what it was like in grade nine, when life was simpler, and I would have given anything for it not to have been so.

All the remains of your brownie are crumbs, and the water has almost dried up from your jacket. The last sip never is as good as the first, is it? Lunch is drawing to a close, and you are expected back for class very soon. You’re going to miss the good food and fresh, comforting coffee, but don’t leave with a heavy heart, for you know as well as I do that we’ll both be back again tomorrow, same time. You can count on it.”