Catfe on the Way?

Tia Petrzilka, Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Over the past year, the LHS club Young Entrepreneurs has been developing a plan for a student-run, affordable cafe, located in Libertville High School. With the leadership of senior Arooj Ahmad and fellow seniors Chris Akers and Collin Apgar, the cafe could possibly be incorporated into the school as soon as this semester.

If opened, the cafe is projected to sell coffee, tea, and one type of pre-packaged food item that is favored among the students at LHS, and open at times convenient for students.  According to YE club sponsor, Dr. Debra Kellum, these pre-packaged foods could possibly be Clif bars, honeybuns, or biscotti; something not terribly unhealthy, but still quick and easy.

Currently, the cafe is a work in progress, mainly supported by Dr. Kellum, who has had the idea of a cafe at LHS in her mind for years.

“This (the cafe) was actually a brainchild from Dr. (Marina) Scott and I, from a conversation she and I had several years ago.  When they (the school) first put in the new concession stand, we envisioned a little cafe table and chairs and a place where kids could hang cause there is no student lounge for our students to hang,” reflected Dr. Kellum.  “There’s just really no place for you guys (students) to just chat and be kids.  They (the students) kind of have the cafeteria, but it’s still very institutional in there, kids don’t hang out there.  They (the students) are always trying to find places and so that (this idea) was an evolution from YE. It would be a great opportunity if we could get all the pieces working together.”

On a daily basis, both teachers and students alike can be seen with coffee, tea, and small breakfast items, whether from local chains like Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, or from the cafeteria at LHS. 

To some people, price may be one issue with these places, but another is the fact that many students go out of their way to get to them.

“What I was looking to do was to eradicate the need for students and teachers to go out of their way to get something of quality, when they could get it from the school,” explained Ahmad.

Kellum also elaborated on the topic and pointed out that a pretty good amount of time is accumulated by students driving to these places, waiting in lines, and then driving to LHS.  The cafe, she believes, can save some of this precious time.

However, Kellum does not believe that the opening of the cafe will affect the sales of the cafeteria.

“We’re doing something completely different.  The cafeteria is still going to have their breakfast items. They’re still going have milk and water and their zero lemonades and whatnot. They’re not going have coffee and hot tea,” explained Dr. Kellum.

While there will only be a select group of products available, Ahmad believes that this simplicity is the key to the cafe’s success and recognizes the importance of having what the students want, leaving unnecessary items out, and he notes that coffee for example, can still have multiple options, like whether it’s hot or cold, sweet or bitter.

“I actually ran a survey.  Even though I knew that people drank coffee and things and tea, I wanted to know exactly how many people.  I surveyed the class of 2015 and got a lot of different ideas about what people really want,” he said.

According to Ahmad, profits will go back to a YE, supporting both students and the school, an offer that could be very attractive to the school.

“I think it’s important that the school gets benefitted from here (the cafe) because it would be really cool for us to be able to invest back into our students,” he said. 

Despite the fact that workers of the cafe won’t be paid directly, Ahmad believes that workers can learn a lot from a business aspect and that students buying the products would be more inclined to buy from a student-run place, knowing that the proceeds would benefit the entire school.

There are still a lot of questions that are not yet answered, including what times the cafe would be open, and where it is to be located.  So far, the developers were thinking they could set up somewhere near the main entrance or possibly even by the band doors for after-school convenience.  However, it is certain that the cafe must be open during times most beneficial to the students like early-bird, throughout the day, and after school.  It has been considered that the cafe could also be mobile and as a result, could move throughout the school. 

A greater challenge, however, will be juggling quality and affordability, but Ahmad is confident that YE can find the high quality he is looking for at a friendly price. 

The developers of the cafe are really trying to get this accomplished for the students and want it to be around for years to come.  They want the cafe to be something for them to look forward to and get the same feeling as they do on hot chocolate Fridays or buffalo-chicken sandwich days. 

“Making it (the cafe) something authentic and real enough to have the students be really interested in making it the best possible cafe it can be.  I’m gonna need a lot of help in terms of being able to satisfy the students’ needs.  They need to speak up and tell me what to do,” stated Arooj.

A lot of work has been put into the plans for this cafe, down to following each regulation and finding an acceptable vendor to buy from.

“We’re getting really close to presenting again to the administration and once we get that going, then it would just be a matter of making sure we have adequate staffing, having a location that would be ok to use regularly, and getting the approvals.  It literally could be sometime first semester, but it’s going to be a matter of getting approval,” stated Dr. Kellum.