The loud hum of the coolers filled with caffeinated drinks. The squeaky shoes of someone walking by. The chatter of the students who were able to snag seats at the round table in the corner. Even without people waiting in line for coffee, the OtterBean is still a lively place.
The OtterBean Café has been a place for students to relax, have a conversation with the Bean workers, and grab a coffee. Each day, the women at the OtterBean try to make it a special and personal interaction with students.
You’ll often find the women working alongside each other sharing jokes or anecdotal stories to pass the time. Sometimes they’ll share snacks, even splitting a piece of coffee bread together, while fellow OtterBean lady Lisa Gemarro says, “Watch your sugar. Yeah, I’m watching it go up.”
Since the people who work at the OtterBean work through the company Parkhurst Dining, some people will take a few shifts at the Bean. However, at the moment five people work the most consistently at the OtterBean, one of them being a sophomore student.
Riley McCoy, a sophomore student, has worked at the OtterBean for over a year now. She has worked at other coffee shops in the past and finds working with college students to be a better experience. “They’re [students] always really respectful and I’ve never had an issue with someone yelling at me for something really dumb so I’ll take that,” McCoy said.
Every OtterBean worker speaks fondly about the students and finds it rewarding to work with college students. “You kids are amazing. You're the reason I’m here. You're the reason I stay,” said Gemarro, who has worked at Otterbein for three years now.
Some of the women at the OtterBean started over 13 years ago, like Melissa Fullerton, and others, like Ndea Gordon, just started working two months ago. However, no matter the time spent at the café, they all have positive moments with students they can look back on.
Fullerton remembers over ten years ago when the choir sang Christmas carols to her while she cleaned the café the Friday before winter break. Gordon remembers one evening when a student took the time to bring her snacks from an event she couldn’t attend.
Gemarro brings up a recent moment when she went to the play “Everybody” when she ran into a student who told her how much of a “fan” the student was of her. In that moment, Lisa felt like a “minor celebrity” among the campus and loves that students see her that way. She was given a picture of the student in the production of “Everybody” and it has since been put on the wall filled with letters and notes from various students.
Each worker tries to keep a positive energy in the café to lift the spirits of every student. They understand what it’s like to have a rough day and want students to know they are available to talk to. “Have a conversation. I know for sure that everybody else here loves to talk to you guys,” Gordon said.
The OtterBean women see hundreds of students a day who pass through the library, and they enjoy any conversation they have with students. Having a pleasant conversation with someone can be uplifting and help with burnout, especially during work or school, something everyone can relate to. Many students will start a small conversation about their weekend or how an assignment is going.
“I just want to make a change at least if it’s five seconds five minutes of your day,” said Erika Evans. She has worked on the Otterbein campus for over six years and shuffles around to work at the OtterDen from time to time. Evans enjoys seeing different students at both places but finds it’s more rewarding to work at the Bean because there is more interaction with the students, and she gets to work with people she is close to.
Students often only have a short amount of time to spend at The Bean since students are only passing by to grab a coffee or snack before class. Even those students though still have positive comments. One student in passing on her way to work still took the time to say, “all the good things” when referring to the OtterBean women.
Greyson Thagard, a junior on campus who visits the Bean almost every day, mentioned a time when he had to write a difficult assignment and was venting about the experience with the Bean women. When he came back a few days later, they remembered and asked about how the assignment went. Thagard felt seen when the bean women tried to check up on him. ”The Bean is like a point of light on the campus,” he said. “It’s nice to have a place where they genuinely care.”
The OtterBean women hold a special place in the hearts of the Otterbein students. The café is seemingly the only place on campus where students have nothing negative to say.
If life ever gets hectic or assignments get too frustrating, always remember that the OtterBean women are there with a cup of coffee and kind words.
[Editor's Note: Ndea Gordon's last name was misspelled. This issue was corrected on Nov. 15, 2023.]
[Editor's Note: Per AP Style, the word "ladies" has been removed and replaced with the words "women" and "workers." The issue was corrected on Nov. 15, 2023.]