Summit Coffee will expand this fall into a second location, taking over Davidson College’s former late-night student snack bar the Outpost. It will be Summit’s own “outpost” on campus – and more - operating as a café and bar with a full kitchen, something the 15-year-old coffee shop lacks in its original downtown Davidson location.
The Davidson College-Summit deal came after about four months of discussions, and gives Summit a way to expand its services and its reach. For the college, the agreement helps meet students’ desire for a new casual meeting space on campus.
The college had announced plans in May to put a pub/coffeehouse at the Outpost, on the college’s Patterson Court fraternity row. In surveys and reports over the past few years, students and Student Government Association leaders have often expressed a desire for an “alternative social space” on campus. The idea was the top recommendation of a student social culture task force last year.
Summit’s owners, brothers and Davidson graduates Tim (Class of 2000) and Brian Helfrich (2007), saw an opportunity. The redesigned space will be similar to Summit’s flagship location on Main Street, Brian Helfrich said in an interview.
“The students wanted to create something that looked a lot like Summit,” he said. “So the college concluded we should be the ones to do it.”
They’ve begun renovations on the Outpost building, and are aiming to open this fall, though they don’t have an opening date yet.
In an email to students this week, Davidson Dean of Students Tom Shandley said Summit plans “to provide a variety of programs and entertainment during the evenings” and “will continue to serve late night food” as the Outpost did.
The current space comes with a full commercial kitchen, as well as floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Patterson Court, and a small patio. The Helfriches are remodeling the space to meet both their and the Davidson student body’s vision. And the new cafe will have expanded hours over the previous Outpost, which was open only late nights Wednesdays to Saturdays. Summit’s still-to-be-named campus location will be open all week during the day, as well as late nights.
As part of the remodeling, they’ll install a full-length bar overlooking Patterson Court that will include coffee and draft beer service. The counter will be designed with students in mind, so that they can use laptops and study while enjoying the space.
ENTERING THE FOOD BIZ, ADDING STAFF
The expansion onto campus will also be felt in the South Main Street store, as the Summit crosses a new frontier, and begins preparing its own food. That’s thanks to the commercial kitchen Summit is taking over in the deal.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to get involved with food in a way we haven’t been able to,” Tim Helfrich said.
They are aiming to serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the week and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. “The menu is in the idea stage,” he said, but there will definitely be food served all day. “We’re going to be all about fresh ingredients, and will go local when we can.”
On the business end, Summit expects to be hiring a full staff for the space including kitchen and front of house employees. Summit will be hoping to employ more students than it has in the past, and will be reaching out to student groups to help determine what types of events and programming should be offered at the new location.
Tim Helfrich emphasized that “a lot of what we do will be based on student response. … Hopefully we can accommodate and create a music scene.”
Other aspects of the renovation, such as a walk-up food service window and the ability to accept the student Cat Cards, will reduce the impact on the late-night scene by allowing students to drop in casually, without feeling the need to sit down or hang out.
- Andrew Wilkins