The Chord Coffeehouse in Vevay: It’s the community’s living room


An off-hand comment from a family friend more than 13 years ago led Dan and Paula Reitsma to travel to Switzerland County – “just to put their minds at ease”. Now, the couple has made Switzerland County their home, and this Sunday evening will celebrate the first anniversary of a longtime dream.

The Chord Coffeehouse will celebrate its first birthday.

The Chord Coffeehouse is located in the former Bible Covenant Church building on Ferry Street in Vevay. From there – the facility is many things to many people.

The Chord Coffeehouse is based in a religious foundation – but it’s not a church and its clientele is not limited to just Christian people. It’s a place to relax, and it’s a place to learn. It’s a place to meet old friends, and a place to make new ones.

“Being a musician, having the type of place where a person can go and drink a cup of coffee and listen to some music or have a conversation really appeals to me,” Dan Reitsma said. “It’s a place to gather and a place to make relationships.”

“It’s not just a ‘Christian hangout’,” Paula Reitsma said. “It sounds strange, but it’s kind of like a bar. If you’re a Christian, you don’t go to bars, but where do you go to meet your friends? Where do you make those relationships?”

The couple will also tell you that the Chord is not so much about what is served as what takes place. A 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, Three Strand Chord Ministries works through the Chord Coffeehouse to provide an environment where a Bible study or a craft class may be going on in one of the back rooms; while someone is playing pool or ping pong in the main room; while a group of people are playing some live music together on the stage.

“It’s the community’s living room,” Dan Reitsma said. “It’s a place where people can gather and have a cup of coffee or a soda and some dessert and just hang out. They might be here for five minutes, or they might be here two hours. It doesn’t matter.”


Dan and Paula Reitsma were living in Chicago in 1993 when they saw Vevay’s Herb Rohmann at a Sunday morning church service. Paula’s parents were longtime friends of Herb and Renata Rohmann, and when they saw him that morning in Chicago, they told him that they had some news.

“We told him that we were going to do what he did – move out of the city and into the country,” Paula Reitsma said. “We had found a farmhouse in Wisconsin and were planning on moving there. Herb said that if that didn’t work out, we ought to come and check out Switzerland County, which he said was the most beautiful county anywhere.”

Being Chicago residents, the Reitsmas had been to Indiana – but they had only been to the flat, gray, northern area of the state, littered with steel mills – not exactly a ringing endorsement of the testimony that Herb Rohmann was giving.

With the Wisconsin farmhouse all but a done deal, the words of their friend continued to haunt the couple.

“It just bugged us that there would be a county as beautiful as Herb said,” Paula Reitsma said. “We put Wisconsin on hold and came down here in February of 1993 just to put our minds as ease that Herb was nuts. He wasn’t – we fell in love with Switzerland County and wanted to live here.”

The couple also had a calling to start a Christian coffeehouse, so before making their final decision, they met with some local residents and bounced their thoughts and plans off of them.

“One of the questions we asked when we came here was, ‘What do kids do down here?’,” Paula Reitsma said. “At that time there was no YMCA or other things.”

One of the people that the Reitsmas met with was Ann Sandidge – at the time a student at Switzerland County High School. She told them that the idea of having a coffeehouse in Vevay was a great one, so with the support of others, they decided to make the move.

“It was 13 years ago and we came to Switzerland County to open a coffeehouse,” Dan Reitsma said. “Our church back in Chicago actually said, ‘God Bless and goodbye and good luck with your coffeehouse.’ It’ taken all of these years.”


Arriving at their new home in June of 1993, the Reitsmas began the process of getting settled into the community. They found a church and met many loving and supportive people; and held onto their dream of finding a place to open their coffeehouse and begin their ministry there.

It would take six years, but in 1999, Tim Osborn offered the couple the use of a small building just off of East Main Street behind the Genesis Realty office.

“He said we could see if we could make a coffeehouse go,” Dan Reitsma said. “It just had one small room and a bathroom, but sometimes we’d have between 50-60 people in there.”

It was a good start, but the group quickly outgrew the location as far as physical needs – and support suffered. The Reitsmas also admit that they didn’t have a good business plan, either; because the couple was basically financing the entire undertaking.

“We got to the point where we just couldn’t do it that way anymore,” Paula Reitsma said. “We decided to slow down and obtain a 501(c)3 designation so we could get some help. We were open there for two years, but if it was going to be what we thought it should be, we needed a better plan.”

In 2002, they then began the process of creating a not-for-profit entity. The facility would not be a business, but a ministry; and the couple and the board of directors that was put in place would focus more on the people and their needs rather than trying to make a profit.

That took nearly two years, but in December of 2004, “Three Strand Chord Ministries” was officially granted not-for-profit status.

“We had a big party at the 4-H Community Building to celebrate that,” Dan Reitsma said. “It was New Year’s Eve, too, so we had a big party.”

Again, Dan and Paula Reitsma had cleared a hurdle only to look down the track and several more. They now had the status that they needed – but they didn’t have a location to work from.

The process of looking for a location of the coffeehouse took nearly a year, and in November of last year the couple approached the trustees of the former Bible Covenant Church about their building on Ferry Street. The church was dissolving its ministry, but they still owned a building whether they were meeting in it or not.

That’s when Dan and Paula Reitsma approached the trustees with a proposal.

“We told them that their building was sitting there and no one had bought it, so we asked if we could borrow it,” Paula Reitsma remembered. “We told them that we’d fix it all up and if we couldn’t buy it by June of 2006, then we’d give it back to them and they’d be better off because it had been fixed up.”

The trustees of the church also saw the vision that the Reitsmas had, and they decided to allow the couple to use the building under those circumstances.

And on New Year’s Eve of 2005 – The Chord Coffeehouse held a New Year’s Eve party to celebrate it’s opening.

A 12 year process – from a dream in Chicago to a coffeehouse in Vevay – had come true.


The Reitsmas have always had a ministry for youth, and the couple sees young people as a big part of their future plans. A youth night for teenagers is held each Sunday evening at 7:30 p.m. in conjunction with the Switzerland County Area Youth organization, and teens and anyone else are welcome to come and listen to music and participate in the study and discussions.

They are also open to ideas that others have. Different people have approached the Reitsmas about using the coffeehouse as a place to hold all types of meetings and get togethers; and there are also gatherings at the facility for those interested in learning to knit and those who want to gather for a number of reasons.

“As for the venue, the building can be used for everything from small parties to having a meal following a funeral to small groups who don’t have a place to hold a meeting,” Dan Reitsma said. “We want to offer all different types of classes. It’s not just us formulating these. We want people who come up with ideas to come to us and see if they work into our vision.”

Dan Reitsma said that they hope to have more live concerts and other events at the facility throughout the year; but will also continue to have times when the building is simply open and available for people to “drop in” and spend some time.

“We want to do more with our Bible studies,” Dan Reitsma continued. “One we are looking at now concerns how to manage your money. We also have a marriage study that we do from time to time. Those just aren’t for religious people. It’s for anyone who has those issues.”

Currently, the facility is open on Thursday evenings from 6-9 p.m.; on Saturdays from 6-10 p.m.; and for the youth event on Sunday night.

This Sunday evening, The Chord will celebrate it’s first anniversary in it’s Ferry Street location with a New Year’s Eve party that will begin at 7:30 p.m. There will be all sorts of activities, and everyone is invited to come by and help the Reitsmas celebrate.

With all of the successes that have already occurred – the sale of the building went through so the location is now set for the long term, Dan and Paula Reitsma say that the best way for people to learn about what’s going on is to simply stop by and see for themselves.

“That thing that I think the community doesn’t quite understand if that it has less to do with coffee and more to do with atmosphere,” Paula Reitsma said. “Our vision is not to be Starbucks, it’s to provide a place where people can gather and have a conversation and hear all sorts of viewpoints.”