Council Taps External Manager to Run Indebted Grove Caffe

    While the Grove Caffe remains a treasured part of campus history, its recent encounters with financial problems have persisted in conjunction with unstable management — two unresolved and increasingly pressing issues that plague UCSD’s first coffee shop.

    The future of the Grove seemed tentatively positive at the end of last year. As the A.S. Council and Grove staff members worked to forge a partnership with graduate students of the UCSD Rady School of Management, it appeared that the Grove had found a compromise that would preserve it as a student-run enterprise.

    However, any prospective ties with the Rady School have now been severed, and the A.S. Council has instead elected to appoint an external manager to regain control of the shop’s weakened finances, hoping that doing so will ensure a much-needed stability for the struggling A.S. enterprise.

    “Originally we thought that a partnership with the school could be formed,” Associate Vice President of Enterprise Operations Chelsea Maxwell said in an e-mail. “However, after several conversations between the A.S., Grove employees and the Rady School of Management, it became clear that the Grove would need more stable and permanent management if it were to survive.”

    The decision to hire an outside manager does nothing to alleviate the Grove’s climbing debt — a problem exacerbated Spring Quarter of last year, when original owner Ron Carlson liquidated his 50-percent ownership of the coffee shop’s contract, leaving the A.S. enterprise with a staggering $48,000 debt.

    Now, Grove employees are skeptical of the council’s agreement to hire a full-time manager, an option considerably more expensive than the former managerial system of hiring UCSD students.

    “A.S. will bear the burden of financially supporting this individual, as the Grove is an ‘A.S. enterprise,’” John Muir College alumnus and former Grove employee Jason Grishkoff said in an e-mail. “In addition to the debt already incurred, A.S. has to foot relocation costs and a full-time salary for this individual. We had a completely free resource at our disposal with our relationship with the Rady School.”

    Regardless of the skepticism, the council remains adamant about implementing a new method of management, and has been thorough in selecting a manager that it hopes will uphold the socially conscious ideals the Grove strives toward.

    “Over the summer a search committee was formed, interviews were held and a full-time manager was chosen for the Grove,” Maxwell said.

    Although students will no longer have the same access to hands-on practice in small-business management, Grove employees are largely optimistic about the strength of the shop’s staying power.

    “I’m sure [the new manager] is a fully competent individual, so I can only hope that (s)he keeps the vibes of the Grove alive, serving socially and environmentally conscious products and establishing the atmosphere that makes the Grove what it’s so loved for,” Grishkoff said.

    But the disappointment surrounding failed relations with the Rady School of Management is palpable when broached to Grove employees.

    “We met several times with A.S. and discussed very seriously about the potential partnership with Rady,” Grishkoff said. “Rady never rejected the idea. They received us very positively and working together, we came up with a lot of good ideas. It was an A.S. decision to terminate the relationship.”

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