High school often can feel like an endless schedule of activities timed with the precision of a ringing bell. Classes, sports, activities and homework follow one after the other, usually with little time between to kick back.
That’s why some St. Louis Park High School students want to open a coffee shop, free from the confines of campus and home, where they can catch a welcome break from their daily routine.
“There’s a lot more pressure to excel in school and take harder classes earlier,” said Julia Schmelzer, a parent advising the student group. “They need to have a place that they can come to decompress.”
They don’t yet have a location, and they’re still raising the money, but they’re calling it the Nest and billing it as St. Louis Park’s “youngest coffee shop.” A board made up of students and adults, lending financial support and professional advice, launched a fundraising campaign last month and settled on an opening date this year: Sept. 4, the first day of school.
So far, they’ve collected more than $4,000 in individual contributions toward a goal of $97,000, their estimated first-year costs. They plan to apply for grants, seek funding from the City Council and organize community fundraisers.
For students involved, picking an opening date and raising money has brought what was once an idea on a poster board closer to reality.
“We’re at this place where we feel we’ve gathered a lot of different input from the student body,” said Lukas Wrede, a senior at the high school who joined the board more than two years ago.
“It’s really progressed into this realistic vision that we actually are going to create this building. It’s so cool.”
The group has targeted a couple of locations on Lake Street, right across from the high school’s athletic field. They hope to partner with Muddy Paws Cheesecake, a local bakery that would manage the coffee shop. Students would work there, either for pay or to earn volunteer hours.
More than just coffee
What would it look like on opening day? Something like the teen-friendly Depot Coffee House in Hopkins, but different.
Organizers first want a place that’s welcoming to all students. Isaac Wahl, a sophomore and board member, said he wants to attract students from different backgrounds.
They also want it to be a performance space for high school bands and artists, many of whom currently play at the Depot. The students would decide on other uses.
“We realize that the coffee shop is going to change over time,” Wrede said. “We want it to become what the students want it to become.”
Some students at the high school shared what they’d like to see in an online video.
“I would probably use the Nest to either study, hang out with friends or if I needed to escape from all the school madness,” one said.
“I just want a safe environment where we can actually feel comfortable coming to and not be judged,” said another.
And they know what they don’t want the coffee shop to look like. “We don’t want a Starbucks,” Wahl said. “It should be more than coffee.”
An escape from stress
St. Louis Park Council Member Thom Miller heard the idea while campaigning for his seat in 2015 and has been involved ever since. He said the Nest could be a space for students to safely practice the freedom they will have as adults, something he believes was much easier to do in his own youth.
“All that time that used to exist several decades ago no longer really exists,” Miller said. “We want to create a space for them to have unstructured time to themselves.”
It could also fulfill a larger role, he said, by providing stressed-out students a space to unwind. About 62 percent of college undergraduates said they “felt overwhelming anxiety” in the previous year, according to a 2017 report by the American College Health Association.
Miller said students dealing with stress or depression shouldn’t get help from just parents or schools.
“This is what the community can do. They can give them a space to call their own,” he said.