The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Saints Rest: Past, present and future


Located in the heart of downtown Grinnell, Saints Rest is a cozy hangout for coffee enthusiasts from the College and the greater Grinnell community. When entering the doors, coffee lovers are welcomed with the aroma of fresh coffee and pastries, along with the hearty voice of Sam Cox, the current owner of Saints Rest, standing behind the counter. Recent patrons of Saints Rest might be surprised to know that this was not always the case.

Cox is the second owner of Saints Rest. She has been a coffee lover all her life and grew up dunking donuts in coffee with her grandfather. Although originally from Louisiana, Cox grew up and graduated from high school in Grinnell. Later, she worked in real estate and had various jobs in retail in Iowa and frequented Saints Rest as a devoted customer. She quickly hit it off with Jeff Phelps, the first owner of Saints Rest and a Grinnell graduate of ’71.

Just as Cox is not the first owner of Saints Rest, Saints Rest is not the first coffee shop owned by Cox.

“Sadly, this is my second coffee shop,” Cox said. She started her first coffee shop in the Williamsburg Outlets of Iowa, under the guidance of Phelps. “My first coffee shop failed, miserably. … I just started too big, so my advice to anyone and everyone that wants to open a business is that you start it on the smallest scale possible and grow it.”

However, Cox’s experience with her first coffee shop made her a good candidate to be Phelps’ successor. Phelps began thinking about selling Saints Rest in 2012 and, after some careful thought, Cox acquired her second coffee shop in 2013. She saw the value in Saints Rest as a business and made the leap to buy it, even though Phelps was selling at a price higher than a bank would value it.

When asked about her reasons for buying, Cox answered, “I love Saints Rest. I love the location, I love the building, I love the clientele. And to be quite honest, I love Jeff.”

After becoming the second owner of Saints Rest, Cox made some changes. She created a casual seating area with couches, started baking homemade baked goods in the kitchen instead of relying on outside suppliers and shifted the focus to specialty drinks, featuring the “flavor of the month.” She changed the name from “Saints Rest Coffee Shop and Art Gallery” to “Saints Rest Coffee House” and redesigned the logo.

“I really wanted it to be so that when you were driving by or walking by, you could see a coffee cup and be like, ‘that’s a coffee shop,’” Cox said.

Learning from her past mistakes, Cox is letting her business grow slowly. She recently opened a second location near Grinnell Mutual. For more information on the expansion, see the Dec. 1, 2017 issue of The S&B.

As for future endeavors, Cox said, “I am always and forever wanting a drive-through. Like, more than life itself.” She believes that despite the risk of taking away customers from the other locations, she can profit by targeting the daily commuters.

Cox also remarked on the stress of managing her own business.

“Owning a small business is not as glamorous as it seems,” she said. “I think we all have grandiose ideas of being our own boss and running the show and doing what we want and taking off when we want and working when we want. … That’s just not accurate and I think you have to realize that it is a lot of sweat and toil and strife.”

Nevertheless, Cox repeatedly expressed gratitude and appreciation for her customers.

“I would never just walk away from [Saints Rest],” Cox said. “I hope that someday I’m going to grow it to a level that [is] what I deem as really successful.”

Until then, Cox will be maintaining the friendly atmosphere of Saints Rest and keeping her customers caffeinated.

View Comments (1)
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (1)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • C

    CrosbyMar 14, 2018 at 9:58 am

    In addition, the initial location of Saints Rest was in the south half of where the Bikes2You store is located. When Bikes2You expanded Saints moved to what was then “Varsity News Stand” which had the largest collection of magazines and comics (1000’s) in the area.