New campus coffee shop finds home in Baptist Student Union

The shop offers free Wi-Fi and original beverages.
Senior Brian Thayer shows off his latte art as a part of the Baptist Student Union on Friday in Vida Coffee Co. The shop offers free Wi-Fi Internet and is the only supplier of bottled Dr. Pepper on campus.

Upon entering the Baptist Student Union two weeks ago, there was a quiet blank space that housed a hidden stage, with seating for a few hundred people for worship services. Now, a few tables and booths of a new coffee shop, Vida Coffee Co., occupy the space for the convenience of students passing through.

Small, secluded and reserved, the privately-owned Vida is located in the center of campus.

“The location is in the midst of all dorm locations,” Vida Manager Kyle Smith said. “We have free Wi-Fi so you can come in and study any time.”

Vida offers its own beverages, customizations and recommendations for its menu.

Stemming from the idea of a student, senior Bryan Thayer, the coffee shop has become a reality for him and the rest of his team.

"I was the one that brought the coffee shop idea over here,” Thayer said. “There was a coffee shop opened by (U.S.) 63 and Broadway called The Coffee Ground and it closed down two years ago. The owner wanted to donate the equipment to a non-profit organization.”

Instead of pitching the idea somewhere else or directly to the university, Thayer found a home for the idea to flourish at the Baptist Student Union.

“I was a student and I had connections on campus,” Thayer said. “So, I took up that project and pitched the idea to the Christian Coffee House but they weren't really interested so I came over to the Baptist Student Union. We opened a separate coffee shop with that donated equipment.”

The name "Vida" represents the idea of bringing new life to the Baptist Student Union.

“About a year ago now we sat down and had a brainstorming session,” Thayer said. “I had the idea of naming it Columbian Coffee spelled with a 'u' but apparently no one knows how the country Colombia spells its name, so the cleverness wouldn't have come through."

Ditching the name of Columbian Coffee, they thought of a new and direct idea on the variation of life.

"We brainstormed the really lengthy idea of having life as the name but in English that sounds lame,” Thayer said. “Spanish is a pretty domestic language in the United States, so why not Vida which is Spanish for 'life.'”

Even though the team found a well suited home for Vida within the Baptist Student Union, the new coffee shop could struggle with new clientele because people might assume it has Baptist ties. However, the coffee shop is privately owned.

"We have someone refuse a free sample of pastry because they're atheist,” Smith said. “We are not trying to offend anyone with our pastries and coffees for sure.”

Vida is one of the few student-run businesses located in Columbia. Customers who want to support local business and find something unique might be interested in the new coffee shop.

“This is the only (Vida) in the world,” Thayer said. “It was started here, stayed here, dead center of Columbia, middle of campus. It doesn't get any more Columbian than this.”

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