School Grounds: Student-run coffee shop brewing

White Bear Lake Area High School seniors Maddie Verkerke, Trevor Motzko and Marissa Metzler plan to open a student-run coffee shop in the South Campus concession stand next semester.

Students at White Bear Lake Area High School – South Campus hope to open a student-run coffee shop at the beginning of next semester.

The project has been about a year in the making and began when three students, now seniors, came together for independent study credits last school year. Trevor Motzko wanted to extend his study of economics; Maddie Verkerke wanted to pursue finances; and Marissa Metzler focused on marketing.

The students were some of the first to implement the district's new concept of student agency (where students lead their own learning), explained project adviser and media specialist Lindsay Lamwers. “We worked together and taught ourselves,” Verkerke said. To involve other students, a naming vote was held last school year.

The coffee shop will be in the concession stand by the gym. The students hope the coffee shop is a “place for people to come together,” Verkerke said. Drink prices will be lower than retail outside the school to make it affordable for all students — from $2 to $3.50. School Grounds plans to have a full drink menu — specialty coffees, teas and juice-based drinks. Anchor Coffee House co-owner Brad Atkinson, who opened a coffee shop downtown White Bear Lake in 2017, has been donating time to advise the students.

After about $17,000 in startup costs, the students expect the coffee shop to be self-sustaining since it will require no lease or labor costs, Motzko said. Students will volunteer in the shop to gain work experience and service-learning credit. Any profits will be given back to student learning.

Metzler has spent much of her time writing grant applications; School Grounds is now about half-funded. The project received a $5,000 Perkins grant, $3,000 Brosious grant from the White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation and $1,500 from the Greater White Bear Lake Community Foundation.

The three seniors will be off to college next fall, but the plan is for the coffee shop to continue as a student agency project, Lamwers said. Students will have the opportunity to work with district leaders on where the coffee shop will be located in the one-campus renovated high school, which will open in 2024 at North Campus. Everything purchased with the grant startup money can be relocated.

Business teacher Kelly Knutson, also a project adviser, said the school just started a DECA Club (formerly Distributive Education Clubs of America), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit career and technical student organization. The business marketing club may get involved in running the coffee shop in the future.

Right now, the students still hope to attract a few more donations for startup costs, or consultations from those with expertise. There will be sponsorship opportunities for area businesses, said Michael McGarthwaite, career navigator.

“Our dream goal is to open up shop in January or February of this year,” Motzko said.

If anyone is interested in donating, they can contact Lamwers at 651-800-8498.

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