Stirling’s Coffee House
Stirling’s Coffee House is owned by Sewanee: The University of the South, run by college students, and opened until midnight seven days a week during academic sessions. In addition to being a substance free alternative to the Greek system, we employee 30 students, serve fantastic food and drinks, and are a popular hang out for students and professors.
We have a Gallery with revolving exhibits of artwork and a room that students & faculty can reserve for classes & meetings. We feature live music along with readings, lectures, art receptions, games and contests. Stirling’s was one of the first coffeehouses to have wireless internet — in fact, we’ve had free computers with Internet access for so long that our computers are a little dated — fortunately most customers now arrive with laptops.
We frequently work closely with other like minded programs on campus like Habitat for Humanity, the Multicultural Center, the Women’s Center, Waste Not and the radio station WUTS. We are committed to recycling and composting, contemplating and debating, laughing and joking, and having fun.
Stirling’s is located on campus next to the Bishop’s Common in a yellow Victorian house. With picnic tables in the yard, rocking chairs and a porch swing, comfy sofas and overflowing bookshelves — it is the perfect place to study, meet friends, take your family or attend class.
Stirling’s Coffee House was born on a sunny day in mid-March, christened a couple weeks later on April Fool's Day 1996 and named for beloved English professor Ted Stirling. Prior to 1996 there had been a large social void on the campus of the University of the South. It had been years since there was a gathering place for faculty, students, and the community. After hefty pressure from select students and faculty, the University decided to put a large amount of money into a coffeehouse — long before coffeehouses were commonplace. A big selling point —Stirling’s was to be an alcohol-free alternative to the Greek scene on campus.
As luck would have it, there was a former Boulder resident with extensive coffeehouse experience living in Sewanee in the mid 90s. Jenny Blanchard was hired to work with students and faculty and come up with the concept and mechanics of the new venture. Jenny insisted on using the finest coffee and equipment in the business. Student volunteers along with the University’s physical plant services transformed a Victorian era house that had been used as a rental — into what remains one of the finest coffeehouses this side of the West Coast.
A year later, good luck struck again when long time Sewanee resident and alumna, Katherine Alvarez, was hired on as assistant manager. Katherine’s food and small business experience was a perfect fit. With two managers to guide 30-part-time student employees, Stirling’s was able to gradually build it’s menu and increase it’s business. A year later Jenny moved on, but Katherine has remained. In the years that have followed, many assistant managers have come and gone — each layering Stirling’s with their talents and personality. Each has been a Sewanee alumnus and dedicated Stirling’s customer with a spring in their step and instinct for what the students want.
At Stirling’s we pride ourselves in serving the very finest coffee and espresso drinks possible. We use Allegro coffee from Thorton, Colo., and take our espresso very seriously. Although employees are students working an average of nine hours a week, they are trained to extract the perfect espresso shot and steam milk into a velvety smooth texture occasionally producing the ultimate goal: “latte art."
We have a delicious and inventive sandwich and salad menu which is available from first thing in the morning until late at night. We make as much as possible from scratch, strive for healthy foods and a balance of meat, vegetarian, and vegan options.
Our student staff comes from all over the nation and occasionally the world. Roughly a third are in the work-study program. They tend to be very active on campus. They write for the student paper, volunteer in the Outreach program, perform in theater productions, compete in sports, play music, study abroad, tutor needy children, DJ at the radio station, dance, promote conscientious social and environmental programs, and then volunteer some more…