By Eric Mistry
Coffee aficionados of Grinnell, rejoice! Saints Rest Coffeehouse, transitioned to new owners, retains its charm while adding a few perks. The coffeehouse, a local staple, recently came under new ownership after its previous owners, Jeff Phelps ’71 and his wife Patricia, decided to retire. Sam Cox, the new proprietor, is a lifelong Grinnellian with a degree in marketing and over twenty years of experience in retail management.
Though much remains the same within the beloved coffeehouse, Cox is bringing her own blend of ideas to help Saints Rest grow and thrive. The space seems much more open, which Cox attributed to the removal of unnecessary things on the floor and a rearrangement of furniture. A new casual seating area, filled with cushy couches and inviting armchairs, also seems like an ideal place to relax over a few cups of coffee. The usual works by local artists adorn the walls, and the chatter of casual conversation gives the coffeehouse a relaxing vibe.
The menu has seen a few minor changes. The main notable addition is a variety of snacks, bakery goods and other foods to supplement the drinks menu. Cox moved bakery production in-house to make baked goods more consistently available. She also emphasized the quick, “grab-and-go, individually packaged options,” which were designed with student customers in mind. One new item is hearty oatmeal; I chose the peanut butter and jelly flavor, which proved healthy and delicious.
Drink options remain mostly the same, although a snazzy new blackboard has been added to display the menu.
Those who seldom carry cash will be glad to know that the Saints Rest now takes credit cards, making the new menu items even more accessible.
Cox sees the Grinnell student body as a crucial piece of Saints Rest clientele and wants to do anything she can to encourage students to trek over to Broad Street.
“[Students] are welcome,” she said. “We want them here. We value their business, their patronage. The more, the merrier!”
Part of this student-friendly business strategy is a batch of new discounts. The Saints Rest now offers a “Go-Green” discount of 5% off if a customer brings in their own cup for to-go coffee and a “frequent flier” buy-10-drinks-get-one-free card.
Cox would also love to bring student art and performance to the Saints Rest.
“We welcome any student who wants to perform, whether it’s music, poetry or anything,” she said. “It’s an open door, and I welcome anyone who wants to do something to come talk to me.”
Cox also recognizes the need for the Saints Rest to have a strong social media presence. In addition to the existing Facebook page, she has created a Twitter account for the Saints Rest: @Saints_Rest.
“I’m still trying to get the hang of it, though!” Cox said.
She expects to use the social media offerings to spread the word about specials, new products and events.
Overall, the new Saints Rest has everything that made the old Saints Rest popular, with a few new additions to better serve more customers. The fact that this local business is remaining locally owned and is making such an effort to connect with students is grounds for celebration.