By Yami Zuniga
With construction continuing in a number of areas on the Northeast campus, one project in particular is gaining some special attention. The addition of a full-service coffee bar is part of the renovation currently underway in the Learning Resource Center (LRC). The coffee bar will be located in the round circulation desk area that will be the centerpiece of the library’s front entrance.
The Northeast board of trustees recently awarded a contract to run the coffee bar to Jo’s Coffee Shop located in downtown Mount Pleasant.
A large sitting area will be located adjacent to the coffee bar. LRC Director Ron Bowden said they are hoping that the space will provide an area for casual seating that will offer students, faculty and staff a place to study or just relax with friends and enjoy themselves.
“We’re real excited about the coffee shop. We are going to have a seating area especially for people who are buying coffee and there is probably going to be some pastry items too,” Bowden said. “There is going to be a mixture of furniture. There will be some high tables like you might see in a Starbucks and then some lower seating tables, so it’s a nice mix and will have a little café feel.”
Bowden said he thought it was a good idea to offer the contract to a business that is already familiar to the local community.
“I think it was a good decision to go with Jo’s as the coffee shop,” he said. “I’ve heard from students on campus and even one of our student workers mentioned that they really like Jo’s. So, that already seems to be a popular place for students.”
Jeffery Crabb, Jo’s Downtown, owner, said he is “extremely excited’ to bring the coffee shop to the campus.
“So many of the college students already are familiar with Jo’s and come to Jo’s downtown to study and this will give them the option to enjoy the same thing while on campus during the day, and they can still come downtown after the library closes.”
Crabb said while they will use trained baristas from Jo’s on campus in the beginning, they hope to eventually hire NTCC students to work at the coffee bar. “The long term vision is that it will be mostly college students running it,” he said. He said the punch cards that they offer customers at Jo’s downtown location will also work on campus.
Crabb said since Northeast is located so far out of town, the Jo’s on campus will help build a sense of community for the students. “Build community around coffee and around snacks and things, just like they do downtown, they hang out and study together in a positive atmosphere, and they will be able to do the same thing at the college.”
The new coffee shop will share space in the library with the artwork created by African American artist John T. Biggers and the large Caddo Indian pottery collection that was donated to the college a few years ago. Bowden said these pieces would be “a draw to the college” by appealing to art critics and Native American historians.
Bowden said he expects the artwork and pottery to attract people to the college since the pieces help the LRC take on the role of a small museum. Having a coffee bar and sitting area will be an added attraction to those visiting the campus to view the artwork and pottery displays in the library.
“We feel privileged to have the Biggers’ art and to be able to display part of the Caddo pottery collection,” Bowden said. “It gives the Learning Resource Center a small museum aspect. We feel very honored to have that.”
Bowden said the coffee shop construction is part of phase III of the LRC renovation. He said the library has been able to stay open throughout the construction, although they have only been able to offer limited services to students over the past few months. He added that despite the disruption, the upgraded facility and new coffee shop would enhance the Northeast experience.
“It’s been challenging, but we’re still going through it,” he said. “I keep telling people the end result will be all worth it.”