Overcoming setbacks, village, school continue pursue

CASSOPOLIS — At the end of last school year, the Cassopolis student-run coffee shop hit a snag when it did not receive an initial source of funding that it was hoping to get.

Shortly after that, it was difficult for the school district or village to make any serious decisions regarding the project because students were on summer break, but Village Manager Emilie Sarratore wants it to be clear, the student-run coffee shop project in Cassopolis is not dead. She and Cassopolis Superintendent Angela Piazza have been working on it consistently throughout the past few months.

In fact, the students involved with the coffee shop are helping to host an event with the Main Street Committee at 6 p.m. on Oct. 25 at the Sinclair Station. It will be a networking event, and the students will provide community members with free coffee and treats.

“We don’t want anyone to think we have given up on this project or that we haven’t been working on it in the background,” Sarratore said. “We definitely have. We’re excited about this next event. I think it will be a great community event. I hope everyone comes out and supports the students.”

The event will be open to anyone in the community, and the student-run coffee shop will accept donations. The coffee shop’s name, which the Ross Beatty Jr.-Sr. High School student body voted on, will be unveiled at the event.

In the meantime, students, the district administration and the village are working on deciding where to put the coffee shop. They have narrowed it down to two locations: the main floor of the village hall building and the Sinclair Station.

“Jorden Parker, who we’ve been working with at Wightman on our master plan, has donated some time and designed a build out of both those spaces,” Sarratore said.

The build out for both spaces is not complete yet, but once that is done, everyone involved will have a much better idea of which is a more viable option.

“We’re working on the build out cost and that will help us know really where we’re looking funding wise,” Sarratore said.

Finding funding for the project is also high on the list of priorities for Sarratore and Piazza. They recently applied for a grant with Marshall Plan for Talent, which is an initiative by Gov. Rick Snyder that could provide the coffee shop with $200,000 in grant money.

“The Marshall Plan for Talent [grant] came up pretty quickly and we thought we might fit that, so we have applied for that,” Sarratore said. “We just sent that application in. It was a very fast turnaround for that. The announcement and the turnaround came out very fast. We were able to do an early submission, get some feedback, and then submit again, which was nice.”

They also plan to explore crowdfunding at some point in the next year or so.

While it might be frustrating to the district and the village that the plan for the coffee shop has not been finalized, both understand that sometimes it takes teamwork and resilience to get a project done.

“It really is a great project. It’s really a great standard for us to set ourselves by to say, ‘look what we can do together,’” Sarratore said. “We want to make sure we keep that moving forward. From the village’s end, we want the kids to feel like their part of this community. We have so many exciting things coming and so many exciting things happening. We really want them to be invested.”