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U grads combine books and beans at coffee shop

April 5, 2001
People file through the the Capital Area District Library, 401 S. Capitol Ave., in Lansing on Wednesday. A new Beaners store has opened in the library. —

LANSING - When Lisa Thompson and Cynthia Pugh met on MSU’s campus as undergraduates almost 20 years ago in Bryan Hall, they never imagined they would one day open a Beaner’s Gourmet Coffee shop in Lansing.

But that day came Monday, when the duo opened a cafe in hope to promote intellectual conversations and thinking, inside the Capital Area District Library, 401 South Capital Ave.

“It’s been fun and hectic,” said Pugh, an owner of the new coffee shop. “I always thought books and beans were a great idea and we’ll have to wait and see what the people think.”

And people seem more than happy to smell the aroma of specialty coffee brewing then old books when they open the doors to the downtown library.

“I like the feeling that it gives,” said Sarah Redman, selection specialist in the library, while an espresso machine whirred behind her. “Bookstores really started this phenomenon and it creates a nice ambiance. It also gives people another reason to come into the library.”

Beaner’s President Bob Fish was hoping the customers and the community would approve of the growing trend.

“The idea of books, learning and coffee all work together very well,” Fish said. “The library is an anchor for downtown Lansing and by far the busiest building in the downtown area on the weekends.”

Beaner’s opened its first store in 1995 in East Lansing. Success led to a second store, in Lansing, in 1997 and a move to franchise operations and more stores in 1999.

There are now 14 Beaner’s Gourmet Coffee locations.

“We’re very happy to be adding another location to downtown, it’s an endorsement to downtown Lansing and a retail success,” Fish said.

Beaner’s Gourmet Coffee franchises its concept and offers people, some without any business background, the opportunity to open a coffee house.

“We fully train them and get them through the business process,” he said.

The kiosk in the library is the eighth Beaner’s to inhabit the Greater Lansing Area, but the first time Thompson and Pugh have managed a coffee shop.

Thompson, general manager of the shop, is an employee of the Michigan Department of Transportation. Pugh, owner of the store, is a chemistry professor down the street at Lansing Community College.

“We’ve really been working together, even though we have different personalities,” Thompson said. “I am more of the people person. I do the administration and she’s the one who’s creative. She comes up with things and I get them done.”

Thompson and Pugh’s partnership began in 1983 as freshman roommates in Brody Complex. They said business is going well, but learning the skills is much like being back in college.

“We have literally been studying and taking tests and learning the different blends of coffee and where they come from,” Thompson said. “ We had to learn the history of gourmet coffee. Then we had to learn how to actually make the coffee.”

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