Caffeine is many students’ drug of choice, and Hillsdale students are no exception.
There are a variety of different shops in the area to satisfy the coffee lovers in town, but one stands out in that it’s both a coffee shop and a bar. Rough Draft — with its cozy yet modern, industrial yet chic atmosphere — has been serving the community since 2017. But it’s the baristas who pour love into their jobs that make Rough Draft so special. Many of those baristas are Hillsdale students and alumni.
Fifth-year senior Danae Sollie started working at Rough Draft in January. She said she chose to work there because of its relaxed atmosphere.
“I was home fall semester of last year with a traumatic brain injury and I started working a coffee shop job as a relaxing break from high intensity brain work in school,” Sollie said. “When I came back in January I knew I needed a job, but I wanted one that didn’t add more stress. Rough Draft is very relaxing, and I always feel better after I work.”
Along with its pleasant atmosphere, Sollie said she appreciates being able to meet people from outside of campus social circles.
“I love working in a place that allows me to interact with college students and community members — it’s a perfect intersection between those two,” Sollie said. “Just being in the community and not just the ‘college bubble’ is great.”
In addition to students like Sollie, several alumni chose to work at Rough Draft after graduation. Patrick Lucas, who graduated Hillsdale College in 2018 and teaches art at the Will Carleton Academy, has worked at Rough Draft for over a year.
Lucas echoed similar sentiments about the coffee shop’s atmosphere.
“It is a breath of fresh air in Hillsdale and I feel like the vibe and the quality is so uncharacteristic of Hillsdale,” Lucas said. “Hillsdale’s really cool but I’m from suburbia, so I feel like I walk in here and I’m teleported out of Hillsdale. The vibe is good and I wanted to learn about coffee and cocktails.”
Lucas also expressed his appreciation for the connection Rough Draft gives him to the college.
“As an alumnus I feel connected to the college still just from serving customers and talking to them,” Lucas said. “If I overhear a customer saying they’re working on a paper I’m probably going to ask what class and what prompt. I’ve met students through Rough Draft just by serving them.”
According to Lucas, another fun part of working at a coffee shop is being able to make and enjoy every drink, and experiment with new ones. He said one customer who graduated with him in 2018 used to work at Starbucks, and her husband wanted something similar to a Starbucks signature drink. Lucas could easily replicate it.
Alumna Anna Summers, Rough Draft’s resident baker, shares a similar creative spirit. She graduated in 2018 and was friends with Lucas during college. After graduation she left Hillsdale for a year.
“I worked in HR at an automotive company doing sales and logistics and it sucked the life out of my soul,” Summers said. “I came back to Hillsdale to find something more meaningful and with the people and the kind of community it is, I knew I was going to be able to find something here. Rough Draft had an opening for a baker and I’ve always liked baking, it’s one of my favorite things to do.”
Summers makes a variety of baked goods for the shop, including raspberry shortcake cookies, pumpkin bread, and sweet and savory scones. Customers who walk in while she is working are likely to smell whiffs of the freshly baked goods, which are made on-site.
While Summers graduated with an economics degree, she is no stranger to the culinary arts.
“My aunt and uncle are both chefs and my grandparents are old German and Dutch ladies who just love to bake and cook, so I learned a lot from them just watching,” Summers said. “But in terms of learning to bake, that’s something I just learned on my own.”
Summers said several of the goods served at Rough Draft come from inspiration from her family.
“My favorite thing to watch people eat because they love it so much is rum cake,” Summers said. “I haven’t made it too many times here but my family has this recipe that makes an appearance at every Christmas party and I try to incorporate it here and it’s always a hit.”
Junior Sophia Berryhill, a barista at Rough Draft, said talking to Summers has been a highlight of working there.
“She is also in school right now to become a midwife, and we had a cool experience talking about that because that’s what I also want for my career,” Berryhill said. “It was unexpected that another employee there wanted to go into that same field, and we talked about a lot of the communication skills that are applicable to both careers.”
Berryhill said she also appreciates the quality of the coffee itself.
“I almost always make myself a bourbon vanilla latte; it’s just our classic base drink but it’s so good,” Berryhill said. “We work really hard to make sure that our beans and espresso quality are the highest they can be and it shows in our drinks.”
But ultimately, Berryhill said it is the community that makes her love her job so much.
“It’s nice being in a place removed from campus but where I still feel comfortable having a conversation with people who walk in. There are a lot of students but also alumni and people who live in the surrounding area,” Berryhill said. “I love the ambience, and it being a peaceful place to work and be.”