Recaffeinated — Go-ahead given on coffee house business plan

From caramel apple cider to regular black coffee, there might soon be another option available for students, faculty and staff who crave caffeine on Albion’s campus.

The college administration—primarily Mike Frandsen, vice president of administration and finance—has approved a student proposal to explore the option of opening an entrepreneurial student-run coffee house, so that the group of students can now begin to create an operational business plan. The proposal comes after the decision to close the residential coffee house last semester, which took effect at the beginning of this semester .

The new coffee house, which the group hopes will be fully operational by the start of next semester, will be located in the former residential coffee house located between Mitchell Towers and Baldwin Hall. The students will also sell coffee from carts in the Kellogg Center and science complex, according to the proposal created by Cody Bailey, Canton junior.

“(The new coffee house is more of) an economics lab; you actually get to put what you learn in the classroom into real life,” Bailey said. “We can cover anything except maybe pre-health. The entire idea is how we’re trying to make it open to everyone, not just close it off to the basement of Robinson.”

Involvement in the proposed coffee house does not currently count as an academic credit, but it probably will  in the future, said Tom Bryant, director of the Gerstacker Institute, who acts as project advisor to the students running the coffee house.

With initial approval granted, the next step on the road to potentially approving the coffee house’s operation is to create the operating plan, which includes factors such as budget, health code requirements, equipment and staffing hours, Bryant said.

“The current plan is this will run as a special unit of dining services to access the facilities and financial gathering system,” Bryant said. “The critical consideration at the moment is what is the maximum cash requirement—what does it take to stock everything, and how much are we going to be likely to sell?”

Bryant said the final budget has not yet been set because the operating plan is still in development. The operating plan will first be looked over by Bryant and then submitted to Mike Frandsen, vice president of administration and finance and Susan Conner, provost, for approval in the next few weeks.

During Homecoming weekend, Bryant and the group of students conducted their first market research trial. They offered free cups of coffee and cider to students, faculty and staff, giving away about 150-200 samples and asked people to respond to several questions.

“One of the questions we asked was ‘Would fair trade be important to you?’” Bryant said. “The younger people were, the more they said, ‘What?’ The older they were, they more they said, ‘Definitely.’ Now we have to sort that data out.”

Several more trial runs will be conducted in the next several weeks, including two in the Kellogg Center and science complex atrium and one in the library bridge located in Stockwell-Mudd Libraries.

Stephanie Potocny has been in charge of organizing the coffee house’s potential programming, including events like open mic nights and televised sporting events complete with pizza.

The group is also trying to coordinate programming in conjunction with some of the students who ran the former coffee house, Bailey said.

“We have a long list of stuff (from) karaoke nights to discussions with professors,” Potocny said.  “We wanted to appeal to all different kinds of people and different academic departments. Starting up things would be smaller, but then as we gathered more of a following we could do some bigger things.”


  1. I fail to see what value this arrangement provides the Coffee House. How is the added layer of oversight from Gerstacker going to really change the economic reality of the Coffee House? Regardless of the source of the money, the house succeeds or fails based on basic financial acumen and the passion and cooperation of the managers. All that will change by making the Coffee House beholden to Gerstacker and it’s agendas is the death of the freedom of choice that made the house great in the first place. If the managers can’t direct the house in the ways that they see fit, what’s the point? Open a Starbucks and be done with it.

  2. When I was at Albion, The Coffee House generally served as a cornerstone for creative intellectual thought. It was a safe haven for students who respected the merits of a liberal arts education and were generally troubled by the constricting pre-professional focus the college was moving toward, particularly with The Gerstacker Institute. If Gerstacker takes over the Coffee House, I worry that the stimulating conversations that were fostered there through club meetings and independent gatherings — the walls covered in math proofs and quotations from philosophers — will cease to exist. Without the culture surrounding the Coffee House, I likely would have transfered, though I can’t speak for others. I can’t help but wonder if taking away intellectual hubs on campus is really the way to create an “always thinking” student body.

    Maybe Albion should just become a pre-professional college like Baker College– who really needs the arts, humanities, or creative thought? Actually, we should really get rid of all the economics faculty, so that Gerstacker students only have to take accounting courses. Who needs theory or critical thinking? Who needs to make meaning out of data in the context of this world? Not students at this college, that’s for sure.

  3. Remember that time when the coffeehouse was closed before this decision was made? Remember when the coffeehouse wasn’t open for weeks on end? Because, yeah, that happened.

    I find it offensive that you would think that pre-professionals aren’t free-thinkers or have the capacity for creativity. How close-minded of you. Who said that the re-invented coffeehouse won’t be an intellectual hub? Yes, I’m sure there won’t be alcohol or smoking allowed there, but surely that’s not necessary for intellectual thought? I will also add that the previous attitude of the coffeehouse alienated some students who would have been happy to be there.

    Yes, the coffeehouse worked at some point in time, but not well within the last year, if not two years. I think both of you are overreacting to this change.

  4. The changes happening to The Coffee House are incredibly sad to my generation of volunteers/residents/customers who found it, as Stephanie recalls, to be a safe haven for the underdogs. However, “Music Major” I too watched for two years as the house deteriorated from being a hub of intelligent thought and conversation to being a consistently closed party house.

    The saddest part for me is that the creative nature of the Coffee House could have been restored, had previous students been given the same opportunities. When we asked for Dining Services participation during my year, we were denied outright. When we asked if we could do the coffee cart in the KC, we were told that Starbucks was being sold already.

    Last year, when I offered to help return the house to its previous success (as an unpaid alumni) I was told I would hear back and no one contacted me again.

    There was a time when the “Residential Coffee House” (as it is now being called), was a profitable business run by intelligent students who navigated the budget, health codes, event planning, and stocking without receiving credit or any acknowledgment from the college whatsoever. When we asked for “internship” status or “credit,” we were laughed at.

    So… the reason I’m angry, is that my efforts apparently did not merit the college’s attention, but as soon as someone who is trying to beef up their resume wants to do the same thing with more help from the administration, doors are opened and staff members are recruited.

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