Mercies Coffee, a coffee shop with a mission, opens on Madison’s east side

Mallory Orr's new coffee shop has become part of her lifelong mission to fight human trafficking and inspire change.

Mallory Orr, 30, still recalls learning about human trafficking for the first time in high school in Washington state.

“After my initial introduction, I just walked away from that thinking, ‘I can’t continue living my life without doing something about this.’ It just rocked me to my core and I still get a little emotional about it every time I talk about it,” she says.

Orr’s new coffee shop she opened on Monday, Mercie’s Coffee, has become part of her lifelong mission to fight human trafficking and inspire change.

“As we develop our business and everything we’re going to be serving this local Madison community by highlighting other organizations that work to fight human trafficking in the area, specifically Dane County, but all over Wisconsin, as well,” Orr says. “Our goal is to bring the community around these men and women that are involved in the horrors of trafficking and get them help and support so they can have a life that’s free and thriving.”

Orr aims to raise awareness of Zeteo Community Homes, Every Daughter, SlaveFree Madison and Damascus Road Project, all four Wisconsin-based organizations committed to fighting human trafficking.

Bringing Mercies to life was always a dream, an opportunity Orr couldn’t pass. The former Cool Beans owner approached her back in August and asked if she wanted to take over the 2600-foot space at 1748 Eagan Road. From there, she says everything fell into place.

Her friends and family helped her vision become reality, a black-and-white interior with purple accents. A dark purple velvet sofa sits across from a fireplace, nestled by some other lounge chairs. Natural light shines through big windows and chandeliers hang above, adding warmth just as winter sends Wisconsin some chilly temperatures. Handmade lightwood tables line the hardwood floor with white chairs, along with spots outside for those willing to bear the cold.

“Mercies is also special because it’s such a community of love,” Orr says. Her friends built the furniture, her friend designed the logo and her other friend hand-painted calligraphy on the walls. Every aspect brings some element of comfort.

Walking in, visitors will see the calligraphy above the doorway and by the back wall that reads, “You are loved.” One wall displays Mercy with its full definition, “compassionate or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly,” a testament to Orr’s mission to support survivors of human trafficking.

“I hate that people are reduced to objects and used and abused for someone else’s profit,” she says. “I fight for people and I fight so that they can live a life that is something they want and where they feel and know their worth.”

In an industry where many coffee workers also face human rights abuses, Orr is also focused on ensuring everything is locally sourced and ethically made. Their chocolate, which comes from Oregon, is dairy-free, organic and made ethically. She orders pastries from Madison Sourdough, deli meat and bread from Stalzy’s Deli and plans on ordering produce from R.E. Golden Produce. She partnered with Fitchburg-based True Coffee Roasters since they build relationships with farmers.

Her hope to create a sense of community extends to her staff members as well, a goal inspired by her own experience working in about seven different coffee shops.

“I care and want them to succeed, learn, grow and do what they’re passionate about outside of work,” she says. “And then also just teaching them above average customer service. I think that’s something that I’ve noticed has unfortunately kind of gotten away from us these days.”

As for the menu, it took a long time to narrow down what she wanted, but with the help of her two close friends, she is introducing a number of sweet and savory options. The breakfast toast, made on Stalzy’s sourdough, comes with peanut butter, banana, and topped with housemade granola, honey and cinnamon. Dessert for breakfast is another option — another Stalzy’s sourdough bread toasted with Nutella, banana and coconut flakes.

Orr decided to craft a signature sandwich — one that nobody can replicate. She worked with a friend and tried a red pepper garlic jelly.

“I was like, ‘this is it’. Then we built the sandwich and it was perfect. And we couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks,” Orr says. “Other people have said the same thing, and they kept coming back for it, so it’s a hit.”

She also recommends the roast beef sandwich, made with a special horseradish goat cheese spread and pickled onions, a surprising, flavorful combination of ingredients. Mercies also offers non-dairy smoothies.

Although an Americano is a go-to for Orr, who savors the bitter taste of espresso, she says their homemade syrups are great add-ons. Orr says she is proud of the cold brew as well.

“I think one of the big things I’ve taken away from my experience is that less is more. [Find] a few things to do, do them well, and then you can grow from that,” Orr says. “When you serve people well and you’re really good at your craft, you can always find something people like.”

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