The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Local businesses welcome student employees

Although Grinnell College offers many employment opportunities, students often venture off campus to find jobs at local businesses in town.

“In June of 2006, [when we opened], some of the first few people that came in a filled out applications were actually students,” Lonn Lease said, the owner of Lonnski’s Pub and Deli, who has employed several students for the past three years.

This trend is much older than just three years however, as Grinnellians have been working at the Phoenix Cafe & Market since the establishment opened in 1995.

Unlike the College, local businesses have no obligations to hire college students, yet they continue to due to their quick learning ability and trustworthy nature. Jeff Phelps ’73, owner of Saints Rest Coffee Shop, sees the advantages every time he trains a Pioneer.

“Grinnell students are very intelligent,” said Phelps, who has an all college student staff. “They pick up on what we do here very quickly, that’s one of the things that makes it very easy for me to hire students.”

Kamal Hammounda, owner of the Phoenix Cafe, has noticed the quick study nature as well. He even notes a carrying over of skills acquired in the classroom to his kitchen.

“Often times, science majors are the best cooks. It must be the labs, they are very meticulous about measuring,” Hammounda said. “They feel the need to [cook] as an experiment.”

Running a small business can be incredibly demanding on the owner, so Phelps said he is glad to have Grinnellians around.

“I trust them to the point that I can walk out [of the coffee shop], otherwise, I would be working 90 hours a week,” Phelps said. “They’re very important to the success of things around here.”

Beyond cooking and relieving owners of overtime, the students often bring a more academic atmosphere to kitchen banter, which Hammounda appreciates.

“In the back, we often have political and social discussions,” Hammounda said. “The students give me a new prospective on life.”

The benefit is mutual, as often spending too much time on the Grinnell campus can lead to certain isolation from the outside community. Maya Andelson ’12, who has been working at Saints Rest since her junior year high school, views her job as much as an escape as anything else.

“It helps me get away from the academic side of life in Grinnell, helps me meet and keep in touch with people from the town,” Andelson wrote in an e-mail. “I hear about town news that doesn’t necessarily reach campus.”
Regardless of the benefits of Grinnellians in the workplace, the one problem that affects all business with Pioneer employees is scheduling. With finals, midterms, sports seasons and breaks popping up every semester, conflicts can easily arise. Phelps, while understanding, institutes a crucial policy with his workers.

“I know I have been very fortunate. Almost all students that work [at Saints Rest] understand two things,” Phelps said. “If they can’t make a shift they have to find someone to work for them, and the students and I mutually understand that they came to Grinnell to go to school, not to work at Saints Rest.”

With understanding bosses, an opportunity for a retreat from academics and an overall sense of greater connection to the community, it is easily apparent why so many students take jobs away from school grounds. Even if they don’t have a spot for you right now, they probably have a cup of coffee and a snack in the mean time.

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