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Caffeine dreams: Visions come together for a campus coffee shop

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – After percolating for a couple of years, some coffee dreams have brewed into a shop that opened on the Bethel College campus in September.

That's when Patty Meier launched Mojo’s at Bubbert's in what used to be the snack bar in Schultz Student Center on campus. This is Meier’s second Mojo’s – the first is a kiosk in the Newton Medical Center lobby that opened in December 2009.

Chad Childs, Bethel vice president of Student Life, gives credit to two students from Fresno, Calif., juniors Seth Dunn and Lisa Penner, for planting the first seeds. Two years ago, when they were only freshmen, Dunn and Penner read the mood and wishes on campus not just for good coffee but also for an inviting gathering place. They started a coffee shop in the lounge of Haury Hall.

When Childs began in his position a year later, he says, “I heard about what Seth and Lisa had done the year before. They were the pioneers who got us to this point – they showed there was enough student interest in a coffee shop.”

Penner and Dunn weren't able to continue with their small, student-run venture, so Childs began meeting with interest groups of students, faculty and staff to talk about how there could be a sustainable coffee shop on campus. Student Senate got involved, forming a Coffee Committee.

This past August, Childs was able to announce to the campus: “After much thought and work – planning, surveys and reviewing a variety of business models with several companies by the Student Senate Coffee Committee – the Bethel Administrative Cabinet has unanimously approved plans to move forward in supporting the efforts of the Coffee Committee to bring a coffee shop company to campus, … [which] will be in Bubbert’s and will be owned and operated by a contracted and existing coffee shop company.”

That “existing company” was Mojo’s and the move to Bethel represented the expansion of Patty Meier’s long-time dream.

Meier, who teaches in the education and English as a Second Language (ESL) departments at Hesston College, says, “Since I was in college [at Kansas State], I wanted to have a coffee shop. I got married right out of college and never had the guts or the money to follow through.”

Then a few years ago, she did some consulting in ESL and decided to take the fee money and enroll in the American Barista and Coffee School in Portland, Ore., where she learned everything she needed to know to start and run a coffee shop.

“I love coffee,” she says, “and I love coffee shops and their environment. I love what coffee means – connecting with someone, talking and relating. I just love coffee shop culture.”

She was attracted to the idea of starting a Mojo’s at Bubbert’s, she says, because it offered “more space, a kitchen, being on a college campus and also having easy access to the community.”

Bubbert’s has a door off Minnesota Street and, thanks to the cooperation of the City of North Newton, two signs near that door to designate short-term parking for Mojo’s customers, Monday-Friday. Meier worked with Thresher Bookstore manager Mary Enz to send a special promotion to North Newton residents to get them to check out the new Mojo’s.

And they have. The shop has only been open six weeks but so far, Meier says, “the response from the community has been fabulous. And we see a lot of students, faculty and staff in here.”

The current hours for Mojo’s at Bubbert’s are Monday-Thursday 7 a.m.-11 p.m., Friday 7 a.m.-6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m.-2 p.m. The hours during long breaks (Christmas, spring and summer) and January interterm are yet to be determined, Meier says, and she also has to evaluate whether it will pay to be open for special evening events such as concerts or games.

In addition to brewed coffee, coffee drinks, other specialty drinks and fruit smoothies, Mojo’s sells baked goods – including cookies, pastries and quiche – along with sandwiches and wraps.

“The coffee comes from PT’s in Topeka, which won the nationwide Roaster of the Year award in 2009,” Meier says. “We have several direct-trade and organic coffees. Our most popular so far is our house blend, Peace, a medium-bodied mixture of Guatemalan and Ethiopian coffee.”

“It was a stated goal of Student Senate to bring a coffee shop to campus,” Childs says, “and there was a lot of student input on what it would look and feel like. There was a strong desire that it be different from Bubbert’s [a snack shop], that it feel like it was off-campus while being conveniently on-campus.”

With funding from Student Senate and the Bethel College Women’s Association, a gift from a local donor and Meier’s own start-up funds, major renovations to Bubbert’s have included refinishing the floor on the top level, buying new tables and chairs, repainting walls, installing a Mojo’s awning outside, improving the kitchen and building a coffee bar for making and serving the drinks.

“Bethel donated a lot in terms of the time of maintenance workers,” Childs says. “And [our tech support department] gets credit for installing public wireless access.

“It’s been exciting to have activity here,” he adds, “and to see people from the campus and the community getting together in this space.”

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2010-11 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is in the first tier in its category in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of “America’s Top Colleges” for 2011. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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