Library’s cafe project slated to open in spring

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Photo provided (From left): BMHS hospitality program students Sarai Servin and Ryan Dahl pose for a photo. The Beloit Public Library’s Blender Cafe is expected to be staffed by 15 BMHS students.

BELOIT — Groups involved with the Beloit Public Library’s Blender Cafe project expect the plan to move forward soon, with an opening slated for the spring.

Bids for construction of the cafe will be opened Thursday, and a contracting firm will be selected at the Beloit City Council’s Jan. 17 meeting, according to library marketing coordinator Andrea Levine.

After a bid is accepted, construction is expected to start at the end of February, with a tentative grand opening date set for April.

“We are finally getting to a point where we are going to get students trained and construction started,” said Tony Cappoziello, School District of Beloit Apprenticeship liaison for Blackhawk Technical College.

Construction on the project is estimated to cost about $200,000 and was made possible through a partnership between the city, library, Beloit Memorial High School (BMHS) and Kerry Ingredients. The city contributed $100,000 for the construction, but no reoccurring funds will be designated for the project, according to Beloit Public Library Director Nick Dimassis.

“This is a public-private partnership at its best, and the beneficiaries are the 17-and 18-year-old chefs, hotel managers and restaurant owners of tomorrow,” Place Economics consultant Donovan Rypkema said.

Funds for the project were matched by the library through fundraising efforts and individual contributions, Levine said. Last month, the Beloit Rotary Club donated $10,000 to the plan. The Friends at the Beloit Library group also donated $10,000 for the cafe project, on top of the group’s planned total donation of around $20,000, said FABL President Mim Warren.

The cafe was designed to support job and career training for BMHS students, offering on-the-job training. Aside from a cafe manager, the project will be staffed by 15 students from the high school’s hospitality program. The partnership also could lead to business students getting involved on the marketing side of the cafe, Cappozziello said.

Twenty-five students will be screened for the 15 positions, and each student will be selected on an individual basis to work around athletic and academic schedules. All students will be hired as library employees, with all positions being paid.

The manager’s position could be filled by past students with proper experience. Depending on the hiring process, BMHS graduates from last year could fill some of the 15 spots, Cappoziello said.

“We still need to figure out the sales system for the cafe, and what the city expects in terms of record keeping as well,” he added.

Kerry Ingredients will provide further career training, Levine said. Kerry will also provide materials, products and food science tutorials to students.

Although students will be paid, the cafe must be self-sustainable, Dimassis said. All wages will be paid through profits made by the cafe, he added.

Graduates of the “Blender Program” will also be eligible for college scholarships to culinary arts programs, according to cafe project documents.

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