Books, bread and coffee: Lawrence cafe centers on community, supporting local businesses

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Coffee, books and bread all seemed to go hand-in-hand when Porter Books & Bread owner Will Worley and his wife, Marcy, opened Porter Books & Bread. Since September 2015, the cafe has become a destination for business professionals, residents and visitors in Lawrence.

Porter Books & Bread is a community-focused, locally owned and operated cafe known for its sandwiches. It is at 5719 Lawton Loop E. Dr. and partners with local businesses to bring a “neighborhood feel” to each item on the menu.

Opening a cafe, however, wasn’t initially part of the Worleys’ plan. According to Will, food was more of a “hobby” prior to opening Porter Books & Bread.

“I have a master’s in social work, so I thought that was the field that I was going to get into,” Will said. “I had worked in restaurants before, like a lot of people did in their younger years. So that background kind of helped (Porter Books & Bread) come to be. But once my wife and I moved to Indy (from Lafayette), one of our passions was to try to find smaller, locally owned places to support.

“Twelve to 15 years ago, that was hard to do.”

The couple became acquainted with Indianapolis brands that are now widely recognized, such as Smoking Goose, Tulip Tree Creamery, Turchetti’s Deli and others across the city. With that as a hobby, Will and Marcy dreamed of opening a bookstore.

“We quickly realized that selling books wasn’t going to be a great margin pusher,” Will said. “So, we decided we would make bread while we were here. And if we were making bread, why not sandwiches?”

From there, the menu bloomed to feature Porter’s freshly made bread topped with locally sourced produce and protein. The Worleys met coffee roasters, one of which taught Will how to roast coffee, thus establishing the cafe’s draw of serving in-house roasted coffee.

Will said the broad mission of Porter Books & Bread is to “support and stay involved with the community.”

“We (follow our mission) in a number of ways, one of which is making sure that we’re keeping local dollars in the local economy by featuring local businesses on the menu,” Will said. “But one of the unique issues when sourcing locally is that local goods change frequently. By virtue of that, so does our menu.”

Porter Books & Bread features menu items made with meat from Turchetti’s in Indianapolis and produce from Garcia’s Gardens on 42nd St. in Lawrence.

Will said the look and atmosphere of Porter Books & Bread seems to change each year thanks to the community.

“We accumulate stuff,” Will said. “We have art on the walls from people we’ve met who try to sell their art through us. One year, we put up Christmas lights around the upstairs banister and they just never came down. We were babysitting plants for a regular (customer), and the plants ended up making home here.”

Of course, the name Porter Books & Bread requires the cafe to keep a variety of books available for customers to read. The book supply is a community effort, too.

“When we first opened, we bought out a couple of estate sales (for books),” Will said. “So, we have a ton of inventory. But we kind of do a trade program. So, if you bring in books, you can take some, too. But we have a lot of people who just donate books.”

The Worleys initially planned to open their store in Fountain Square but saw the listing for the shop’s current space online. The building had yet to receive a breath of new life after being part of the decommissioned Fort Benjamin Harrison military campus. After speaking with the building owner, Tom Martin, about how he envisioned the building to be repurposed, the Worleys decided Lawrence was their best option.

Will attributes Porter’s launch to his wife, Marcy.

“She had a ‘real job,’ and (financially) allowed us to open up,” Will said. “She worked every weekend, right up until the birth of our first child. She was committed to the shop.”

Porter Books & Bread manager Neil Freeman has worked at the cafe for more than six years.

“I was new to the area and just Googled ‘coffee shops,’” Freeman said. “I came in and had a cold brew nitro and a scone and was sold. I loved the atmosphe

re and had never seen a place like this. So, I started working here.”

Although the cafe had a rough start getting established, Will said he wouldn’t change anything about the journey.

“I hope we have an impact on the community,” Will said. “Lawrence is a small place. Everyone knows each other and works together. It’s a great place to be.”

For more, visit porterbread.com for hours and the full menu.

Looking ahead for Porter Books & Bread

Starting in January 2023, Porter Books & Bread will present a concert series.

The cafe has partnered with Indianapolis Independent Entertainment, a group focused on pairing local performing artists with local venues. The third Friday of every month will bring a different local artist to the cafe for a performance.

Owner Will Worley plans to open a Shelbyville store in early 2023.


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