Local Coffee on Campus

Emma Fletcher-Frazer, Staff Reporter

The newly renovated Jewett Cafe opened this week to positive responses from the Whitman and larger Walla Walla community.

The cafe partnered with Walla Walla Roastery to bring fresh and local coffee to Whitman students. Walla Walla Roastery is located by the Walla Walla Regional Airport and was started by siblings Thomas Reese and Mary Senter.  Reese had actually approached Bon Appetit about working with them years before, in 2001. He was turned down because the business was too small at that point. But 17 years later, Reese finally got the chance to work with Bon Appetit at Whitman College.

“It makes me feel good that they really wanted us… They had to have a certain amount of trust that we could come through on the scale that they want,” Reese said.

Bon Appetit approached Walla Walla Roastery about bringing local products to Whitman about a year and a half ago. Mike Jones, the operation manager of Bon Appetit at Whitman, reached out to Reese.

“Bon Appetit really likes to deal with local purveyors, local farmers, locally crafted things as much as possible,” Jones said. “It was kind of an obvious partnership.”

Walla Walla Roastery is supplying Jewett Cafe with merchandise, including t-shirts and hats, as well as one-pound bags of coffee. They also created a special blend of coffee for the cafe, aptly named “Jewett Blend.”

Beyond providing materials, Walla Walla Roastery worked with Bon Appetit to train the baristas at the cafe. Walla Walla Roastery taught a few training sessions for the employees, as well as a machine training session. Lael Klinefelter, barista at Walla Walla Roastery, contributes the effort spent on training to be an attempt by Bon Appetit to have the Jewett cafe be as similar as possible to the Walla Walla Roastery shop.

“[Bon Appetit] wanted to keep the cafe true to our atmosphere that we have up here,” Klinefelter said.

Bon Appetit finds that working with local businesses in the area benefits Whitman and Bon Appetit itself, as well.

“Promoting local businesses basically helps everyone in the community,” Jones said.

Reese agrees with the goal of working with Walla Walla shops.

“The more that the campus… can bring in elements of Walla Walla into it, I think it’s not only getting really good product to the people on the campus, but bringing a worldview that it’s possible to do this stuff locally, and not just reach for the glossy corporate product,” Reese said.

Reese values the nearness of the business to the consumers.

“We’re not this big corporate giant, we’re locally roasted, a regional coffee roaster that wants to have good, quality product,” Reese said. “There’s a vibrancy and a vitality to locally roasted coffee, as long as it is… roasted well.”

After the cafe opened, students flocked to eat there. Jones was surprised by the number of people there.

“The reaction has been a little overwhelming,” Jones said.

Three hundred people attended the opening day of Jewett Cafe. That number rose to 350, and then to 425 the day after that.

Eva Sullivan, a sophomore at Whitman, enjoys the atmosphere of the new cafe.

“I went to the cafe for the first time… and was so impressed,” Sullivan said. “It felt much more like an adult college space.”

Sullivan likes that everyone, including professors and students, goes to the cafe.

“It’s a spot for people to genuinely hang out and get really good coffee right on campus,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan, like Reese and Jones, also believes that partnering with local businesses is beneficial.

“I think partnering with an actual smaller local coffee company is such a good decision… Supporting local business is always really important,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan suspects that more people will start eating there once they discover the cafe.

“I think a lot of people haven’t realized it’s actually a really cool spot,” Sullivan said.