Though I have recently attempted to expand beyond my coffee-based reporting for this fine newspaper into other food-related ventures (see “Students dine with faculty, staff,” Dec. 9, 2015), I now find myself longing for the days in which I could examine the College and the greater community through a caffeinated lens (see “Java Jack strikes back,” May 5, 2015). Accordingly, I am proud to present the next installation in the occasional Java Jack column.
As past readers of my column will note, I maintain a strong affinity for Goodrich Coffee Bar (GCB), the College’s only student-run business, which serves a latte-bagel combo unrivaled by perhaps any other establishment in Berkshire County. Upon receiving word through Daily Messages that GCB was hiring a new squad of managers, curiosity flooded me and drove me to inquire as to what the four managers of Goodrich do within the organization. This past year, the exceptional team made up of Personnel Manager Em Nuckols ’16, Special Projects Manager Sally Waters ’17, Finance Manager Matt Rock ’16 and Supply Manager Rob Hefferon ’18 served at the helm of GCB.
Save for Rock, all of the current Goodrich managers started their careers at GCB as baristas. “I applied to Goodrich after returning from time off from Williams in fall 2014,” Waters said. “I had worked in the service industry during my time off and really enjoyed how the service jobs calmed me down and made me happier through their rote and team-based nature. I decided to apply to be the special projects manager this year largely after finding out Em, Robbie and Matt would be the other managers. I knew Em and Robbie personally and had heard great things about Matt, so I knew that I would work well with them as a team.”
Nuckols also envisioned taking on a managerial role as a fulfilling experience. “I knew being a manager would not be easy, but I felt I was ready to challenge myself,” they said. “The service industry has been a fulfilling part of my life, so acquiring more technical business skills seemed like a logical professional move.”
The managerial team expresses positives sentiments about their work. “Hearing people talk about Goodrich around campus really makes me happy, because it convinces me that we’re actually fulfilling an important need, and making some level of difference,” Hefferon said. “As soon as I started working there, I saw things that I loved but things that really could be fixed, so I knew I wanted to be a part of that as a manager. Also, when I was a kid I used to dream of owning a restaurant, so my managerial work was perhaps the destiny of little 10-year-old me who used to look up industrial cooking equipment and mahogany chairs on the Internet.”
Rock also reflects warmly on his time managing GCB. “The most rewarding part of my experience is that Goodrich still exists,” Rock said. “I thought there was a non-trivial chance it’d go up in flames or that people would stop eating there. It’s been a real success this year and we’ve had a lot of fun making it all go. More seriously, I do think that in a way, we alleviate some pressure from dining services because we serve a lot of breakfasts during the week, and dining services is already stretched pretty thin.”
Nevertheless, all of the managers acknowledge that the job can prove difficult at times. “When it comes down to it, as managers we are also students, and when we are having to deal with the everyday situations that come up running a small business, sometimes the long-term dreams need to take a backseat to both our studies and keeping the business running relatively smoothly in the short-run,” Waters said. “This was a hard lesson for me to learn, but definitely a necessary one, as it’s important to have priorities.” Rock noted the inherent difficulty that can come with serving as a supervisor of peers. “We’re all college students with a lot of commitments and navigating conflicts is hard,” he said. “I’m really sympathetic to the fact that working a shift from 7 to 9 a.m. is not easy. At the same time, we’re trying to run a business and we need bodies behind the bar… It can be really hard to say, ‘Yes, you have to work,’ when I consider how constrained my own schedule is.”
The Goodrich managers also shared the difficulty of navigating the College’s bureaucracy. “It’s an incredible thing to be a College-affiliated business,” Nuckols said. “We don’t pay rent or utilities; we have access to College resources like Human Resources and breakfast swipes. These are huge advantages to small businesses and student managers. However, there are trade-offs. Not owning the building means we don’t have control over what renovations or upgrades are possible. We’re held to the same policies as other College employers, so we can’t make the political statements other businesses can. For example, we couldn’t get a new espresso machine because of the now-delayed building renovation, and we can’t donate points to charities. I wish Goodrich had a little more flexibility since we are the only business of its kind on campus.”
Hefferon shared other difficulties that come with the job. “As supply manager, I’ve learned that food is fickle,” he said. “In addition to the fact that the types of things people order on Monday versus what people order on Tuesday can vary drastically, food spoils and that can be difficult and frustrating at times.”
Overall, however, the Goodrich managers are deeply satisfied with their work. “I think it just proved to me that I was a very capable human being, by giving me skills and experience that you don’t get in the classroom,” Waters said. “For financial reasons, I have worked service jobs every summer and most school years since I was 16, but that has made me insecure about how my resume looks in comparison to everyone else who has internships out the wazoo. But managing Goodrich has proved to me that my service industry experience has given me very real skills that will be useful in whatever field I go into.”
Nuckols echoed similar sentiments: “Goodrich confirmed for me that the most valuable learning happens outside the classroom. You may learn how to think critically about interesting subjects in the classroom, and hopefully you’ll pick up crucial ideas about what kind of world we ought to be building. You will not learn in the classroom how to behave.”