Look anywhere on campus, and you’ll find evidence for a well-known fact: coffee fuels students, or at least a strong majority of them. According to Steve Mahr, owner of Town Square Coffeehouse, students fuel coffee too.
Ever since he took ownership of what used to be The Old Factory, Mahr has appreciated connections with various ministries at Northwestern. But it is the students who come in who make the biggest impact on what the shop looks like.
“It’s been cool to be a space where college students gather,” Mahr said, “[but] it’s more than just being a space for students. I think students have helped create the space into what it is.”
The shop has always been a unique place for students to go for coffee, studying, games or just to have a good conversation.
Ben Patzlaff graduated from NW this spring and has worked at Town Square for more than two years. He appreciates the getaway from the normal college setting the shop can be.
“It’s very easy to meet on campus and just have casual conversation, but to actually take the effort to go somewhere off campus and get to know somebody or just discuss things – that shows effort and it shows that you want to develop relationships with people,” Patzlaff said.
When Mahr moved to the current location less than two years ago, he knew it wouldn’t be quite the same place.
“There was an intimacy that existed in the old place that I think we’re still trying to figure out how to provide in the new building,” Mahr said.
He sees this as just the first step to being a space for people that is continually growing and developing.
One thing that has been able to grow at Town Square is the live music, and Mahr has loved to see students be a part of that.
“We love local music, and some of the main people creating local music are students.”
Because of student performers, the coffee shop was able to receive a grant for the creation of a concert series and the purchase of a sound system that they now use for student events.
“Had some students not wanted to use their creativity and give it to people for free, we may not have been able to…open the door for other people to play music,” Mahr said.
The shop has become the place for things like that to exist because students do what they love there. If there’s something that students want to make happen, Mahr is ready to see it.
After reminiscing on all of the weekends in college where he had to make his own fun, Mahr said, “I hope that students know that our space is always available for anything that they want to do off-campus.”
For him, he said, “This is just a building, and it becomes something more interesting and more beautiful when people occupy it and engage with one another.”