Years of dedication has produced a source of pride for the community and all those involved with its development – The Grind coffee house. A grand opening ceremony for the local, student-run coffee shop was held last week. The inception of The Grind involved Manistique High School students and the Limestone Federal Credit Union. In September 2015, Limestone Federal Credit Union applied for and received a Michigan Credit Union Community Reinvestment Grant. The $20,000 grant helped with getting the student-run coffee shop going, and further fundraising over the next couple of years solidified the business.
This fundraising included in-kind donations from numerous local businesses.
The building being used for the coffee shop is the former Secretary of State office located adjacent to LFCU.
According to LFCU CEO Jennifer Watson, the path to the coffee shop’s grand opening has involved a community effort. “This is the culmination from many different facets of the community – we are really happy to have had the opportunity to play a part in this,” she explained. “There are hundreds of people we could thank for this project, so we really would like to thank everyone for their part without naming any individual names.”
Alan Barr, CEO and executive director of the Schoolcraft Tourism and Commerce group, praised the creation of the coffee shop and all involved with the process. “It becomes a gathering place, but it also becomes a teaching place, for every student that comes through this system as a barista and as part of the process,” he said. “It is so invaluable and so amazing. It started with some seed money, a dream, and I hope it shows the power of what’s possible.”
Barr also presented the students with a “first dollar” plaque for The Grind.
Gov. Rick Snyder, who was unable to attend the grand opening ceremony, sent a video introduction to be played during the event. Rep. Ed McBroom attended the event on behalf of Sen. Tom Casperson. “Sen. Casperson sends his greetings to you and he is sorry he could not be here,” he said. “He and Rep. Sara Cambensy sent out a tribute from the State of Michigan that they signed along with the governor and lieutenant governor.”
McBroom also added that former Rep. John Kivela would have been proud of the students and the community effort. “I know that he was here in the past. John was a tremendous advocate for his district, as I have tried in mine and Tom has been across the U.P.,” he said. “I know John would really love to be here and share in this special moment too. So I just wanted to mention him and how proud he and I and Tom always were to work on opportunities for students to have a really diverse education, to be able to focus on what interests them and on their potential career futures.”
Ken Ross from the Michigan Credit Union League was also in attendance. “We just wanted to thank everyone for coming today and thank the students for all their really hard work – I understand you have been training for months to make today a success,” he explained. “The Michigan Credit Union Foundation is pleased to offer grants like this in communities across the state of Michigan to recognize projects and offer opportunities that capture the credit union spirit. That spirit in essence is people helping people.
We are a people-based democratic oriented movement to provide high quality, low cost financial services in communities all across the state of Michigan,” he continued. “We’re proud to be associated with projects like this. This is a unique project, our biggest grant ever – $20,000. We’ve never given that size of a grant. We really wanted to do that because this was such a unique idea. It wasn’t a onetime event. It was putting a spark under and opportunity that would create a flame that you see all around you.”
Maryann Boddy, superintendent of Manistique Area Schools and a member of Upper Community Youth Board of Directors also made remarks during the ceremony.
“Much like Alan, back in 2015 I took a phone call from Jennifer and little did we know at the time what this whole thing would turn out to be,” she said. “We are just so thrilled at the opportunities that it provided for our students at Manistique Area Schools. For the kids in our shop and CTE classes who came in here and did a lot of the work themselves. The kids in the CAD class who did all the drawings and helped along that way. The math classes who did some of the budgeting, the business plans, it was just an incredible real experience and opportunity for them. We thank you, it’s been a pleasure working with you and we look forward to a long future.”
Ron Provo, Limestone Federal Board chairman said he also fielded Watson’s initial request. “Jennifer, a month after you called Maryann, you came to the board. You had a dream. We talked. When you look to do something like this with donations and in-kind services it doesn’t go as quick as it really should,” he said. “Everyone hung in there and after 28 months this is what we have. We’re not done yet. We have some cosmetic work to do yet outside, and the roof. I’m sure as we get new students there will be new ideas – we’ll work with them.”
Stephanie LaFoille, one of the original students involved with The Grind’s creation said she has believed in the project since it was first pitched to her and a group of students.
“I am just speechless right now just seeing all of this,” she said. “I never thought we would have this out of just one small idea. And now we have a coffee shop. I’m just very proud and excited to see where the students bring it in future years.”
Alycia Kaiser, Student Education coordinator at Limestone Federal Credit Union manages the day-today operations with students. Currently, the coffee shop is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
*This article was originally published by the Pioneer Tribune. Click here to learn more about their online subscription to follow more local news.