2017-12-07 / Front Page

Time to make it

The Grind coffee shop prepares to open to public

A student, left, works on an order at The Grind coffee shop while Limestone Federal Credit Union employee and former MHS student Stephanie LaFoille assists. 
Pioneer Tribune photo A student, left, works on an order at The Grind coffee shop while Limestone Federal Credit Union employee and former MHS student Stephanie LaFoille assists. Pioneer Tribune photo MANISTIQUE – It’s an idea that had been brewing for more than two years, and now it’s ready to serve. A local, student-run coffee shop will officially open to the public Monday, and those behind its inception are beaming with pride.

The Grind is the product of a continuously evolving group of Manistique High School students and the Limestone Federal Credit Union. In September 2015, Limestone Federal Credit Union applied for and received a Michigan Credit Union Community Reinvestment Grant. The $20,000 grant helped with getting the student-run coffee shop going, but more was needed.

Students split into three groups – the design group, in charge of interior and exterior details; the financial group – in charge of assessing start-up costs and projected profit; and the business planning group – responsible for outlining the plan and work out the logistics for running a business. Community groups assisted along the way – such as the Schoolcraft County Economic Development Corporation, the LMAS Health Department, and others.

Above, MHS student Zach Matchinski prepares a coffee drink with the help of Stephanie LaFoille (background). 
Pioneer Tribune photo Above, MHS student Zach Matchinski prepares a coffee drink with the help of Stephanie LaFoille (background). Pioneer Tribune photo The building being used for the coffee shop is the former Secretary of State office located adjacent to LFCU. While the coffee shop will open to the public Dec. 11, the actual Grand Opening celebration will be Jan. 17. Current hours of operation are 8 a.m.-3 p.m. each day, though an earlier start time may be implemented in the future.

Stephanie LaFoille, an LFCU employee, has actually been involved with The Grind since it was first pitched to students. A sophomore at the time, she went on to assist with the business plan, market analysis, building d├ęcor, and more. LaFoille is currently enrolled in online course at Bay College while working full time at LFCU and assisting students at The Grind.

The students currently involved in the coffee shop, LaFoille explained, are adapting quickly to the business.

“Everyone’s doing well,” said LaFoille. “They’re so comfortable with everything – I think it’s good that we’ve had the public in here because of that. It gives them practice.”

She added that both positive and negative feedback received within the first couple weeks of being open has proven beneficial to the students.

“We get to work on those things before we’re officially open,” she said. “I think we’re getting the hang of it.”

The students have even experienced an influx of patronage during the recent Ladies Night and Small Business Saturday.

“The whole building was full,” LaFoille said.

Currently, there are 12 students who rotate in groups or individually to cover shifts each hour of the school day. The students work for approximately 50 minutes and then leave to attend their next MHS class. While the students currently work on a volunteer basis, paid positions will eventually be offered.

LFCU staff covers the coffee shop during the breaks while students are changing classes. The LFCU Student Education Coordinator Alicia Kaiser maintains an office at The Grind and is often the one assisting and guiding the students in the operation of the shop each day.

According to Jennifer Watson, CEO of LFCU, the Dec. 11 opening will be considered a “soft opening”.

“We’re still learning things and we want the public to be a little bit forgiving right now,” she said. “The students are here for such a short period of time. They’re doing a really great job, but I think the menu is still pretty limited.”

Ahead of the grand opening in January, the students will continue to focus on the development and mastery of the menu.

“Making sure that the drinks are consistent no matter which hour of the day you come in,” Watson explained. “We have to make sure that they each make the drink in the same way, and that every time you come in, you get the same thing, rather than my version of what I’m making.”

LaFoille added that those involved with the development of The Grind hadn’t taken into consideration the skills needed to master the machines used to make the drinks.

“There is a bad expresso shot and a good one. If it’s too slow, it’s going to be too strong. If it’s too fast, it’s going to be too watery,” she explained. “Most students have kind of learned from the sound of it and from the looks and color of it.”

Watson pointed out that coffeemaking is more of an “art”.

“I don’t think that was something that we really looked ahead and thought training would be the most difficult,” she said. “Most people don’t realize how technical it really is.”

In addition to learning the ins and outs of a good coffee drink, Watson said the students have also been diligently training in customer service and register operation. Since the business is new, students also have input on the atmosphere at The Grind – including temperature, music, etc.

“That’s been really interesting – giving them the ability to make those decisions,” Watson explained. “To me, that’s very interesting that they’re getting the opportunity to work through the simple things.”

Beside the easier decisions, students are also dabbling in profit margins, cost of goods sold, what products are moving, and how to stock the store. Currently, the shop offers items for sale, including creations by the MHS CAD class. In the future, there are also plans to display student art.

The Grind will also be offering goods from the area and from MHS alumni. These items will either purchased at wholesale or on consignment by the business to avoid spending a large sum of money to have inventory, Watson explained.

As far as the aesthetic of the shop, a sign, featuring The Grind logo designed by former MHS student Georgia Johnson, will be installed soon. Watson said the students are also waiting for the menu boards to be delivered as well as additional tables to be constructed.

LaFoille pointed out that the MHS building trades class spends approximately two hours each day adding finishing touches to the building.

“It’s just little things here and there now – the big things are pretty much done,” she said.

Watson noted that the creation of The Grind eventually evolved into a community project – with Hoholik Enterprises donating all the heating, electrical, and plumbing; Jake Rivard donated and installed the stamped concrete flooring; and Alison Edwards is working on burning the names of donors onto a wood accent wall in the shop.

“We’re just really grateful to those people who came forward,” she said. “In the very beginning it felt like this really big project with just a couple of people and over the last two years, it’s really expanded … it’s a project of hundreds of students, school administrations, and random people out of the community just willing to get behind something and really make it happen.”

The total invested in The Grind, to date, is $95,500, including: $12,940 in cash donations and from The Limestone Ladle cookbook sales; $53,160 from in kind donations; a $1,400 grant from the Community Foundation; $5,000 from The Ranzetta Family Charitable Fund; $1,500 from Cloverland Electric Cooperative; $1,500 in matching Cloverland Funds from CoBank.

The students, in particular, deserve recognition, Watson said.

“I think it’s just impressive – they’re fully able to run this place without a lot of support,” she explained. “I remember the first meeting that was total chaos and so much fun, and here we are, operating a coffee shop. I think everyone should be really proud for their contributions to the project.”

For more information about The Grind, find them on Facebook by searching “The Grind” or call 286-1137.

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