Students walking through the second floor doors of Bartlett on Maryville College campus can hear the distinct sound of a blender grinding coffee beans for espresso. The smell of coffee wafts through the hallway, beckoning to all who pass by the cozy coffee shop. Highland Grounds is one of the most popular locations on campus for students and faculty, fueling the seemingly insatiable desire for a delicious cup of coffee each day. However, making coffee is not the only service offered at Highland Grounds.
Janae Radford, the lovable barista, never fails to include a friendly smile and word of encouragement with every cup she serves, spreading cheer to each customer that enters the shop. Radford began working at Highland Grounds in January 2010 as the only full-time barista, bringing with her a genuine passion not only for brewing coffee, but for developing relationships with all of her customers.
The shop is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. “This isn’t like an airport coffee shop where you never see your customers again,” Radford said. “I get to know what’s going on in their [the customers’] lives. I ask them how they are doing because I care. I call it a ‘cup of love.’”
Dustin Hinkle, a junior political science major at MC, said that Radford makes the coffee shop worth visiting. “Not only is the Vienna brand coffee the best I’ve ever had, but her service is always just as good,” Hinkle said. On one of the small tables next to the dark leather couch sits a stack of board games, free for all customers to use in the coffee shop.
“People love to come in and play games. I like to think of this place as a ‘coffee community room,’” she said. “I like when it’s so full that you can’t even hear yourself think. That’s my favorite time.”
Radford’s passion for the Highland Grounds shop was apparent as she shared her “wall of encouragement” near the cash register. She referred to it as the “Face-to-Face-Book,” playing off of the popular social media site, Facebook.
“I only post funny, uplifting and encouraging pictures and quotes on this wall,” she said. “Students like to contribute to it, too.” Radford said that the “Face-to- Face-Book” is one of her favorite thing in the coffee shop. “The Face-to-Face-Book is great,” Hinkle said. “It’s right next to the cash register, so you get to read all of the funny comics every time you pay for your coffee.”
As if delicious coffee, couches and chairs, encouraging quotes and a friendly barista are not enough to satisfy customers, Radford personally purchased the Christmas lights and decorations found throughout the coffee shop, spreading a little Christmas cheer to all who visit Highland Grounds.
“All I want is for Highland Grounds to be a place where people feel happy,” Radford said.