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ISSUE 118 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 3/4/2005

Thorson coffee shop closes doors

By Kelly Wilson
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 4, 2005

The Essence of Bean (EOB), the popular coffee shop located in Thorson hall, came to a definite end last summer after serving the St. Olaf community for a year and a half.

Although several current Thorson Hall council members reported that it would reopen again this Spring with the return of an ambiguous owner who had been traveling abroad, none were completely clear as to the exact status of the coffee shop.

Despite the confusion, Jenny Kohler ’07, a former EOB employee and owner-hopeful, related the history and current status of the shop.

Betsy Ortmann ’04 came up with the idea for EOB as a junior in the fall of 2002. Ortmann discussed the idea with several counselors in the Entrepreneurship office in the Old Main Annex, and set to work researching everything from where to obtain quality supplies to where to set up shop on campus.

After several months of work and research, Ortmann eventually earned the Finstad grant she needed to fund her expenses and jump-start the business.

The shop opened in February of 2003, and Ortmann manned the shop during both of its night shifts. Eventually, as word circulated about the new coffee shop in Thorson hall, business picked up, and Ortmann was able to hire another employee, Kristin Bergsagel '05.

The fall of 2003 brought several changes to Ortmann’s venture. Another night was added to its opening hours and musical performers started getting more publicity; everything started picking up.

Even Norwegian credits were offered through class events as incentive to draw in customers. Another employee, Sarah Burgin '06, was then added to the employee list.

Around this time, Kohler and Jamie Heiam '07 independently decided they wanted to start a coffee shop of their own.

They were referred to Ortmann by the Finstad office, and soon became employees of EOB, and owner-hopefuls, expecting to run the shop after Ortmann’s graduation in the spring of 2004.

During the summer of 2004, however, Kohler and Heiam’s plans to take over the shop faltered when complications arose in the planning stages. Consequently, Ortmann decided to close the shop, and loose ends were tied up last summer.

Although Kohler did not reject the possibility of another coffee shop coming in, she confirmed that EOB was, in fact, closed.

"The place was a true coffee house," Kohler said. "We had good, quality coffee, supplied by the Kitchen in downtown Northfield. It was very competitive with the Cage. But there was really nothing like it on campus."

EOB leaves behind customers who also stress the need for something like EOB on campus again.

"I believe [Ortmann’s] shop really set a mood for Thorson,” Ben Hyde ‘05 said. “It made everything feel a little more relaxed and at home. I miss the study breaks during the week where I could go up to Essence of Bean and buy a steamer – my staple drink."

Despite the praise it has received as a successful business, EOB is remembered for the atmosphere and the intimacy it created in Thorson Hall.

"I believe Essence of Bean helped residents get out of their room and connect with each other," Hyde said.

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