Lance and Toni Henson Slade of Warner Robins have dreamed of opening a coffee shop for a decade. A pivotal mission trip brought that dream full circle and now they’re ready to pull the trigger.
Eight years ago, the Slades said they met a 12-year-old boy who captured their hearts during a short-term medical mission trip to a Honduras orphanage.
After three years of adoption struggles and 16 trips to Honduras, that boy came home with them as their son. They also wanted to help the 500 other children at Orphanage Emmanuel in Guaimaca, Honduras.
Today, the Slades are planning to open Woodlands Coffee Roasters & Cafe at 1109 Ga. 96 on about four acres of vacant land between a Goodwill store and Black Barley Kitchen & Taphouse near Houston Lakes Cinemas.
Through a partnership among the Slades, Orphanage Emmanuel and a Honduran pastor who owns a nearby coffee plantation, children at the orphanage will be educated about “all the ways of coffee” — a way to learn a trade and rise above poverty, the Slades said.
Coffee grown at the plantation and eventually the orphanage will be among coffee from around the world offered at Woodlands Coffee Roasters & Cafe. Also, a portion of the sales revenues will benefit Orphanage Emmanuel.
“It’s an audacious leap of faith,” said Toni Henson Slade, a Christian song writer, singer and recording artist. “But when God asks you to do something, you don’t ask questions. You go forward with it knowing that he is the wind in your sail.”
A former elementary school teacher, Slade is also the founder and CEO of their nonprofit, Project Giving, Inc., which helps area families in need, especially those who are suffering from chronic medical illnesses.
Lance Slade is a pediatrician in Macon. Slade, who likes to draw, designed the logo for Woodlands Coffee Roasters & Cafe based on the topography of the land surrounding the orphanage.
Over the years, the Slades have been on multiple medical mission trips to third world countries, including Africa, Haiti, Mexico and South America.
In 2014, they wanted to take their son, Spencer, who was then 10, and embarked on a medical mission trip to Guaimaca, Hondurus, with their church, Northway Church in Macon.
On June 2, the second day of that trip, they met Luis Gustavor, who was suffering from a botfly infection in his head. Lance Slade surgically removed the larvae as Toni Henson Slade held the boy’s hands.
As she did, she said a wave came over her and she knew the boy was to become their son. She shared that with Lance and asked him to pray about it. Within hours, Lance said he felt the same way. They discussed adopting Luis with Spencer, and Spencer was excited about having a brother.
“We just fell in love with him,” Lance Slade said.
Something else had happened on that mission trip that was especially important to this family of faith: Spencer had placed his arm around Luis, shared God’s love and Luis had prayed to become a Christian, the Slades said.
Later, Luis would change his name to Henson, choosing the name of Toni Henson Slades’ father’s last name for his first name. Their son told them that since he was starting a new life, he wanted to have a new name.
On March 14, 2017, he came home to Warner Robins and then the next month, Henson Edward Slade became a U.S. citizen. Edward is a family name that has been passed down for generations. Lance and Spencer also have that middle name.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the orphanage shut down to the outside world for about two years, the Slades kept dreaming about their coffee shop and the children at Orphanage Emmanuel.
During that time and unknown to the Slades, Honduran Pastor Donald Acosta came alongside the orphanage, providing them food. His coffee, fruit and vegetable plantation is about 20 minutes up the mountain.
When the Slades returned to visit the orphanage to pitch their proposal, God had already placed Acosta in place to train the youth, Lance Slade said.
“Rather than us having to try and connect the dots, God had already done a lot of that for us and brought him (Acosta) into our lives,” Slade said.
Today, the youth learn how to plant, grow and tend coffee plants on Acosta’s plantation as well as at the orphanage.
Coffee plants grow best on the mountains in Honduras, but they’re experimenting with the soil on the plains of the orphanage with hopes that the soil can become suitable to sustain and grow coffee plants on site, Slade said.
In the process, Acosta has picked up a nickname: “Mr. Miyagi,” based on the fictional karate master in The Karate Kid film series.
“We started affectionately calling him Mr. Miyagi because, if you’ll remember the movie, Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi in the movie could grow vegetables, fruits and other produce to robust, gigantic sizes,” Toni Henson Slade said. “Pastor Donald Acosta’s coffee, vegetable and fruit plantation looks like Mr. Miyagi’s.”
While the children learn how to tend coffee plants in Honduras, the Slades are working to bring Woodlands Coffee Roasters & Cafe to life in their hometown. They hope to break ground in the fall.
“Lance and I were born and raised right here,” she said. “We wanted to bring this back to our community.”
‘Beaning with meaning’
While not an official slogan for Woodlands Coffee Roasters & Cafe, the Slades like to say they’re “beaning with meaning” when they talk about their plans for their upscale coffee shop.
The planned 5,500-square-foot space includes a large dining area, a rooftop venue and outside patio dining.
Their customers can expect coffee from more than a half-dozen regions of the world such as Indonesia, South Africa, Central America and Italy.
The coffee beans will be roasted fresh on site with an area set up where people can see the roaster in operation. Coffee beans and ground coffee also may be purchased to go.
Their menu will be chef driven and they expect to offer farm to table dishes that will vary based on availability.
“We are partnering with local farmers, so our food is always fresh, never frozen,” Slade said.
Salads, soups and signature waffles are expected to be mainstays. Their Elvis signature waffle was described this way:
“A Liege waffle baked with sugar pearls and topped with peanut butter sauce, bananas, fresh homemade whipped cream and caramelized pecans and then drizzled with milk chocolate.”
In addition to coffee, smoothies, teas, energy drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages are expected to be offered.
The spacious main dining room inside is expected to include a small concert stage. The rooftop venue will be set up more like a living room.
Half of the rooftop space will be sheltered by a roof, while the other half will be covered with canopies. Edison string lights will lace the rooftop space. A large TV screen will be placed in the back of that space for those who’d like to watch sporting events.
Woodlands Coffee Roasters & Cafe will also offer a multipurpose conference room and the rooftop venue may be rented for various catering events. Also, customers will be able to enjoy a dual sided fireplace from inside or on the outside patio.
Once construction starts, the Slades expect to open within a year.
“We are just like always amazed why our story catches people,” Lance Slade said. “We’re like really? … We’re just regular folks that try to make a difference in people’s lives.
“As a Christian you think what is your life about and it’s about more than you and money. It’s about lives being changed, the legacy and what Jesus did — stuff that matters for eternity. And so, we wanted to matter.”