Kaldi’s officially breaks into college market in true MU fashion

Kaldi’s Coffee opened up its first official store on the MU campus, furthering a partnership that dates back to long before the company took off.
Ajay Vinzé, Dean of the Trulaske Business College, hands a cup of coffee to MU alumna Tricia Zimmer Ferguson at the grand opening of the new Kaldi's Coffee location in Cornell Hall on Oct. 1, 2019. Photo by Photographer Luke Hoffman

It was the prospect of giving students a great cup of coffee and an exciting new learning opportunity that brought Cornell Hall its latest addition.

St. Louis based coffee company, Kaldi’s Coffee has finally made its way onto the MU campus. After their product has been served at the Bookmark Cafe, Catalyst Cafe and Infusion, Kaldi's Coffee, located in Cornell Hall, will be the first coffee shop opened officially under the company name at MU’s campus.

However, this particular location will offer MU students a lot more than solely coffee and tea.

“Obviously everyone gets a great cup of coffee, but in addition to that, what it really does is [it] allows students to experience businesses in their most open format, in real-time,” Ajay Vinzé, dean of the Trulaske Business College, said at the grand opening. “If students want to study an audit course, now thanks to our partnership with Kaldi’s, they can actually audit this Kaldi’s. So we’re actually working with a real company in real-time.”

The Kaldi’s location on MU’s campus will serve as much more than just a cafe, but also serves as a classroom of sorts where students can learn the ins and outs of how businesses are run. Gay Albright, who serves as the associate dean of Undergraduate Programs and Global Initiatives director, believes that this is a key addition to the Trulaske School of Business.

“We’re very interested in helping our students to become career-ready,” she said. “Opportunities like this experiential learning opportunity will allow students to take theoretical, conceptual business ideas and actually turn it into a hands-on experience.”

The partnership MU has with Kaldi’s goes back much further than the 18 months it took for this location to be imagined, approved and ultimately implemented. Tricia Zimmer Ferguson, Kaldi’s Coffee president and owner, is an MU graduate and continues to be a very active alumna within the university.

Zimmer Ferguson, who currently serves on the Strategic Development Board of the business college, is always looking for new and interesting ways to give back to the university. For her, helping students has been a long-time passion, dating back to even before her Kaldi’s success.

“When I was in college I had the opportunity to start a program, and we called it P.L.A.N. back in the day,” she said. “It stood for Planning, Learning and Networking a job for the day, and we would pair students with business professionals and give them exposure to real businesses. Learning how that can complement their traditional school studying was really exciting for me”

Zimmer Ferguson’s success with Kaldi’s has allowed her to contribute above and beyond what she was able to accomplish while she was a student, something that means a great deal to her.

“To be able to come back and do something special, like what we have with Kaldi’s today, is taking it a step further than just serving great coffee, but also providing an opportunity to really empower students to see how a business is run and operated is really exciting for us,” she said.

In the creation of this project, MU students were given the opportunity to choose from several different companies to work with, ultimately deciding on Kaldi’s.

“We’re MBA students, so we have to take a class called consulting and you can also take it as an elective,” Taylor Banholzer said. “We were given 12 projects we could choose from, and we ended up choosing the Kaldi’s consulting project as our first choice.”

Though everyone involved will be the first to admit that bringing quality cups of coffee into Cornell Hall was absolutely a key factor in the deal, this partnership was really all about what the school and the company could give to the students.

“First and foremost we hope to serve students really great coffee and tea across campus, but more importantly, it’s to provide opportunities for students to engage in something new and different with an experiential learning program,” Zimmer Ferguson said. “It’s about giving students those opportunities to come in and truly be a part of what building a business can look like here, where they go to school.”

Edited by Laura Evans | levans@themaneater.com

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