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Business Students Study Plymouth Coffee Shop

Take a small business that needs direction and add six IU South Bend business students with lots of ideas. These are the ingredients for an interesting spring semester in W408 Small Business Practicum.

Java Trail in Plymouth is owned by Sandi and Ed Madden at 110 W. LaPorte St., Plymouth. It is one block off the main street at the southern edge of the town. The coffee shop has a comfortable, homey feeling and is furnished with big chairs, small tables and a fireplace straight out of an interior designer magazine.

Back in 2002, Ed had been downsized and moved around in several businesses. The couple decided to make use of Ed’s baking skills and open a coffee shop adjacent to a friend’s bookstore.

Java Trail Owners Java Trail Coffee Shop

Ed remodeled the area and opened the shop in 2002. They have been busy but have not seen any growth. They approached Indiana Small Business Development Center’s Associate Director Jim Gregar for pointers.

The Maddens wanted advice on openeing a second location in St. Joseph County.

Next to enter the scene is Christine Pochert-Ringle, associate faculty member teaching small business practicum. She was looking for a small business for the class project. Gregar had the match.

Gregar said the students always have ideas and are anxious to apply the concepts they have learned over their years in school. “The build relations with the business people and often do follow ups – sometimes years later.”

The six students, Jeffrey Kamp, of Bristol; Jared Lynch and Jordan Lynch, both of South Bend; Allison Hensley, of Mishawaka; Tory Schirripa, of Granger and Marcus Scholten, of Elkhart; all began at looking at the aspects of the business such as marketing, internal processes, financials, internal processes and customers.

Some of the students took the drive to Plymouth to study the lay of the land, the location and talk to customers. They distributed flyers around the town, worked on a Facebook page for the shop, updated a Web page. They examined the workload and the couples’ time behind the counter. The looked at lounge area and what could be improved.

Recognition was one of the first items to improve. The students found that although the shop is a half block from the main street some neighbors had never heard of it.

The flyers have worked and people are now coming by to buy a coffee or two. Becky Jordan and Jesse Becker enjoyed their coffee and sat on chairs in the front window. “We live one block over and we had no idea this was here until we got a flyer on my car window,” Becky said. “We like it. It is just what we needed.”

One Saturday morning, the Maddens were busily ending up their day with the final crush of coffee orders. Sandi said she was happy with the early results of the affiliation with the class. “They have a different energy, a different perspective. They have fresh ideas. We’re technically challenged, so they have been great help with the Facebook and Web site.”

Sandi has been impressed with the time the class had given to their shop. “We’ve always been visionaries with ideas but they’ve come in with a new energy.”

The student will make their final recommendations at the end of the semester.