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TMCNet:  Wolf Grounds Coffee Shop running strong a year after opening [Bristol Herald Courier, Va.]

[December 11, 2013]

Wolf Grounds Coffee Shop running strong a year after opening [Bristol Herald Courier, Va.]

(Bristol Herald Courier (VA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Dec. 12--ABINGDON, Va. -- In less than a year, one small business upshoot has turned into the hot spot on campus.

Wolf Grounds Coffee Shop, in the LRC building at Virginia Highlands Community College, opened in January as a student-led entrepreneurial project. In the months since, it's generated more than $30,000 in sales and will soon -- likely today -- sell its 10,000th shot of espresso.

"It is good. I can't believe it's been almost one year," said Alesha Russell, who works in the shop and serves as its marketing manager.

Russell started working there in August and said the real-world experience has been good for her.

"I never saw myself working at a coffee shop," she said. "But I really love it. This is my favorite job I've ever had. And I think I've got the coffee down." Students are in charge of the shop, said Jason Corvin, who serves as the group's faculty adviser. Eight students are employed and they have to apply and go through an interview.

"For students, it gives them real-world experience," Corvin said, adding that for some employees, it's a first job. "They maintain all the accounting and inventory systems ... there's not really anything day-to-day I do. I give them ideas and they run with it." The shop is mostly powered by solar panels and wind turbines, which were installed through a grant from Dominion Power. Corvin said the shop is mostly self-sustaining financially.

He said he thinks the shop fills a need on campus.

"It's been most well-received by students," he said. "When it first opened, there were a lot of McCafe cups on campus, and I don't see as many of those anymore." Russell said caramel macchiato and self-designed drinks are favorites among students, as are the pastries provided by a caterer from Johnson City. Coffee served at the shop comes from Zazzy'z, a coffee shop in Abingdon.

The shop, though it is just a corner space near the college's theater, has the feel of a larger shop, with greetings between passersby and employees at the shop.

In addition to the daily service, students cater coffee and pastries to college events, including meetings and conferences. But there's room for growth into the community.

"Doing the events really helps, it gets our name out there," Russell said. "But we're trying to get it out to the town, too." Criss Golden, who coaches the Great Expectations program at Virginia Highlands, will take over as faculty advisor next semester. He said he hopes to continue to expand the shop and maintain its financial sustainability.

"We've spent a lot of time talking about how to get more community involvement," Corvin said. "We've gotten the college market, we'd like to focus more on the local community." Added Golden: "That's where we see the future." ___ (c)2013 the Bristol Herald Courier (Bristol, Va.) Visit the Bristol Herald Courier (Bristol, Va.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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