Student-run Off the Ave coffee shop opens in Spes Unica
Katelyn Waldschmidt | Friday, February 24, 2023
Monday morning saw many Saint Mary’s students starting their week off with an extra kick of caffeine, courtesy of Off the Ave., Saint Mary’s new student-run coffee shop.
Off the Ave. has been started and run entirely by a group of students from the Business Department. Seniors Elizabeth Anderson, Erin Bennett, Annie Doyle, Erin Harrington, Grace Marcheselli and Hannah Shoemake along with Junior Jennifer Utterback are the founders of the shop and make up the Off the Ave. board.
One student, Hannah Shoemake, had the idea last spring to give new life to the space in Spes Unica Hall, along with some help from Professor James Rogers, a business administration and economics professor at Saint Mary’s College.
“[We] got talking about the vacant space and how back during my freshman year it was occupied by Sodexo,” she said.
Before Notre Dame Dining took over in 2020, Sodexo used to be the food service used by Saint Mary’s for the dinning program.
“He [Professor Rogers] and I were kind of brainstorming and kind of thought of the idea of how cool it’d be to offer the campus a more high-end coffee experience. With that idea, we thought that maybe some other marketing Belles would have the same opinion,” Shoemake said.
Shoemake went around to different marketing classes, sent out emails and eventually ended up with a board of six additional founders.
One of these founders, Grace Marcheselli, said that the hands-on experience is what originally drew her into wanting to help.
“I feel like in the business world, getting that experience of starting a company is what helps you learn a little bit more and helped me learn what I would want to do postgrad,” she said.
Erin Bennett, another co-founder, seconded this sentiment, saying “I’ve learned a lot of real world experiences.”
Co-founder Elizabeth Andersen said she was drawn into helping by the fact that nothing like this has been done at Saint Mary’s.
“We all wanted to leave our mark on Saint Mary’s and this was a great way to do it,” Andersen said.
The team talked about how their vendors were all carefully picked based on values they hold dear as Belles. According to Shoemake, their coffee supplier, Uncommon Coffee Roasters, has been with them through all the ups and downs of kickstarting Off the Ave.
“What’s really great about them is that all of their coffee is sustainably farmed,” Shoemake said. “Additionally, they have a coffee plant called Zalmari Estate, and it’s all owned by women. So that’s really cool — it kind of ties back to one of Saint Mary’s main ideas of empowering women.”
For their food products, Off the Ave. uses Ragamuffin, a local South Bend bakery. Marcheselli talked about how Ragamuffin has a connection with Saint Mary’s as well as offering exceptional products.
“Abby, the owner of Ragamuffin, her mom recently retired from being a professor at Saint Mary’s in the Education department,” Shoemake said.
The founders also talked about how many opportunities that have been opened to them since starting this shop, not only in trips but also making Saint Mary’s connections.
“A lot of us just viewed each other as classmates, but now I can say that they are more like the closest people I’ve become friends with,” Shoemake said.
Andersen talked about how the shop is still looking to expand its offerings, including a packaged sparkling lavender lemonade and a new cookie.
“We are open to removing things off the menu and putting things on it. It’s definitely not a fixed menu,” she said.
As well as menu expansions, the board also said to be on the look out for a business club they are working on to keep the coffee shop running after they graduate.
“We’ll have students from different business majors, so finance, accounting, management and marketing, then they can oversee what we’ve been doing and make sure it’s functioning,” Bennett said.
Monday was the shop’s grand opening, and many students took the opportunity to be some of the first customers.
First-years Ashley Sims and Mariah Hornak came to the opening after Sims’ professor told the class about it that morning. They talked about the convenience of having a coffee shop on campus, especially in Spes Unica Hall, one of the main class buildings.
“It’s a lot more convenient and especially being here in Spes, it’s a lot easier to just like go on my way to class so that’s nice,” Sims said.
Hornak spoke about the local vendors the coffee shop utilizes, saying “I think it’s an awesome initiative to have, more local stuff around here instead of big corporations like Starbucks.”
Junior Shannon Williams said she was “super excited” for the shop to open.
“I know we’ve wanted this open for a while and I’m actually very happy that it finally came to fruition,” she said.
Williams talked about how nice it was that something was filling the space since the close of the old shop during COVID that never re-opened.
“Since we didn’t have it during my freshman and sophomore years, it’s just nice to have the space filled, so I’m super excited,” she said.
The opening even saw some tri-campus support. Holy Cross seniors Aiden Cavazos and Brevin Slusher stopped by and said they would absolutely be returning.
“I think it’s really important for the campus overall,” Slusher said. “It’s a place where you can bring people together.”
Attendees also spoke about how they loved the idea of the shop being created and run by students and how it created so many opportunities for present and future students. Something students can get involved in, something that would last, something that would be a part of Saint Mary’s even after they’re gone.
“I think it’s an amazing opportunity that the business majors took on, and it’s an awesome task that will benefit people in the future and drive ambitions,” Williams said.
“I think it sets a good example for students coming in and just kind of, what you can do here,” Slusher said. “You’re not just a student, but you can also make a bigger impact.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story misspelled Erin Bennett’s name and failed to name three of the shop’s founders. The previous version also misnamed the coffee shop. The correct name is Off the Ave. The Observer regrets these errors.