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Centre school coffee shop is successful

Staff writer

Facebook was blowing up.

That’s how Centre High School seniors Beka Basore and Anna Weber described the impact of the school coffee shop, Centre Perk, which began as their business plan for class.

It grew into a project to present at the Future Business Leaders of America state conference in Topeka. Business teacher Lisa Beye thought it was such a good idea that the girls should present the project to USD 397 Board of Education.

Even after a year of careful planning, they still did not think the board was going to back them financially and provide an ideal space for the business. The revenue from Centre Perk goes back to pay the loan from the school and to pay for products.

They never expected to have a sleek counter centrally located in the school lobby. They thought they were going to operate the coffee and smoothie shop out of a closet near the business class room.

They did not expect to serve as many adults as fellow students. They have a strong group of regular teachers who are hooked on Centre Perk products including Superintendent Jerri Kemble. Kemble said the daily 3 p.m. aroma of cookies baking is about as distracting as anything in the school.

After dropping their children at school, parents have lingered a little bit longer to grab a flavored iced coffee or a strawberry smoothie. A rumor was circulating that people from Burdick were planning to come to Centre Perk as if it were a restaurant located in downtown Lincolnville.

There were definitely hurdles to clear. Basore and Weber conducted research, studying different coffee shops in Manhattan. They also discovered that there are school coffee shops at Hesston and Hope. Knowing Hope, a fellow 1A school, also had a shop proved it was possible.

They then needed to find vendors for food. With a little research they found that by using Big Train and Snack Express, they would also be renting an oven and other equipment with the purchase of cases of products. They needed an oven for cookies and two blenders. That does not count the three-sink system required for food service in a school.

Speaking of guidelines: because they were serving food and drinks during school hours, the recipes at Centre Perk needed to meet school lunch requirements. All the food and drinks needed to be 150 calories or less. That sounds simple until you consider that there are 440 calories in a single 16-ounce peppermint white chocolate mocha from Starbucks.

Basore and Weber were not sure how their products would sell. Business has not been a problem. With one week of school in the books, they were down to their last case of strawberry smoothie mix. They originally purchased six cases. They were down to two cases of banana mix.

“We’ve gotten more than we paid for,” Kemble said.

The business plan they prepared was strong. The smoothies and cookies have appealed to younger classmates, while coffee has been tried and true for adults.

Now they’ve begun to experiment. They will adjust the ice ratio upon request. Mixing banana and strawberry together was the first smoothie revelation. They will look to expand the slim menu as the year progresses.

They’re also planning to use an iPad application to scan credit cards and start tabs with teachers. In theory, a regular customer could have their drink ordered, ready, and paid for before they even enter the building, Kemble said.

The hurdle now is keeping the business going. Basore and Weber graduate after this year. There have been a few juniors in their business class who have helped out but no successors have volunteered to take over Centre Perk for the 2013-14 school year.

“It was hard to get all this going and the goal is to keep it going,” Weber said.

Last modified Aug. 29, 2012

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