CityKid Java serves U students, urban youth

Zuliana Speltz (left) and Sadie Lundquist behind the counter at CityKid Java.

Photo by Jeremy Stratton

Urban Ventures, ARAMARK partner to open Carlson School café

CityKid Java Café
Carlson School of Management
321 19th Ave. S.
Hours: Monday–Thursday, 4 p.m.–8:30 p.m.
Saturday–Sunday, 2 p.m.–6 p.m.

Zulianna Speltz had never had a job until she joined the staff of CityKid Java, which opened in January inside the University of Minnesota’s Carslon School of Management, 321 19th Ave. S.

The 16-year-old Speltz, from Northeast Minneapolis, came to the café through Urban Ventures, a Minneapolis nonprofit that helps kids, adults and families with boot-strap assistance like afterschool programs, activities, jobs, education, meals and a host of other things. (Learn more about Urban Ventures at www.urbanventures.org.)

The CityKid café is an expansion of Urban Ventures’ existing partnership with ARAMARK, which provides dining services at 35 U of M locations, including residence halls and buildings like the Carlson School. Since 2007, ARAMARK has donated food — unsold at its campus locations but still good — that ARAMARK uses for its twice-weekly “People’s Exchange” meals.

Since 2002, the sale of Urban Ventures’ CityKid Java coffee has helped fund youth programs; you may have seen the “true trade” coffee’s light-blue packaging and logo in local stores. While ARAMARK had also sold CityKid coffee at its locations, the new café is the first of its kind. Three youth, 16–17 years old, work with three U of M-student managers to run the café (beneath an ARAMARK manager, as well).

Heather Mentgen, marketing manager for ARAMARK, explained that the café not only keeps busy business students fed and caffeinated — particularly the after-work executive MBA crowd — , it is a “learning lab” where business-student managers mentor the younger employees in areas of customer service and business management, all in a real-life working environment while earning $8.25–$9.25 an hour.

Student Manager Sadie Lundquist, a 22-year-old senior at the U of M’s School of Journalism, has volunteered at Urban Ventures before. (Her father, Mark-Peter Lundquist, is founder and program director of Urban Ventures.) The café position is not only a service opportunity, but a means of income — a part-time job with added meaning.

Lundquist said she enjoys working with the kids. “I’ve gotten to know each of them, and it’s fun to see them grow in the job,” she said. On a Thursday afternoon, she and Speltz were running the show.

Speltz played down the “learning lab” aspect, commenting instead on the reality of the job/coworker experience. “We don’t talk about that stuff,” she said. “We talk about how our day was and stuff.”

While the lesson may not be overt, Speltz agreed she had learned things in this, her first job. Lundquist said Speltz has been good with customer service and has improved in the few months the café’s been open. “And she makes a mean white mocha,” said Lundquist.

Mentgen said the café is catching on, especially as people learn what it’s all about. “The more people find out what’s behind it, they get so much more excited about it,” said Mentgen, who was herself moved by a visit to Urban Ventures’ facility at Lake Street and Fourth Ave. S. last summer. Mentgen called the experience “heartbreaking, and amazing to see the level of love those people have.”

Mission aside, CityKid Java offers a variety of grab-and-go food items like fresh prepared salads, sandwiches, soups, yogurt parfaits, fruit cups, veggies & dip, cookies, dessert bars and, of course, coffee and espresso drinks.

And who knows, your teenage barista might be a future entrepreneur or the U of M-educated doctor Speltz says she plans to be.

last revised: September 2, 2009