The Scripps Experience: The Motley Coffeehouse

The Motley Coffeehouse

Walking into the Motley Coffeehouse from Seal Court is like stepping into the heart of Scripps. Bustling on any day of the week, the Motley is full of students busily typing away on their laptops, reading, and socializing. The whirring of an espresso machine and the sound of pop music can be heard amidst the general chatter. On the walls are a variety of feminist posters—one quotes lyrics from Beyoncé’s song, “Flawless,” in which author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie defines a feminist as “a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”

A quintessential part of the Scripps identity, the Motley reflects the values of community, inclusion, social consciousness, and environmental responsibility many Scripps students espouse. Since its opening in 1974 as a nonprofit business, the Motley has striven to live up to its mission to “connect The Claremont Colleges with local and global communities by perpetuating sustainable supply chains, to be a socially responsible business that explores diverse feminist critiques, and to foster independent thinking and purposeful change.”

The Motley is managed and operated entirely by Scripps students, and for the past 41 years, it has provided them with leadership opportunities and the chance to gain real-world experience in business. But many who work there say the opportunity to build relationships with the team of passionate individuals who run the Motley is the most rewarding part of the experience.

“I continue to be inspired by our team and all of the amazing people who comprise it,” says Motley products manager Lauren Hartz ’18. “Motley employees are politically active, passionate, diverse, and multitalented individuals with a multitude of interests. Most importantly, we are all a family.”

The coffeehouse’s day-to-day operations reflect the shared values of the students who run it. Social justice and environmental sustainability issues are two guiding principles of the Motley’s business model. Most of the products sold there are certified organic and fair trade, such as the Motley’s decaf and regular espresso beans, which are from the family-owned-and-operated Klatch Coffee in Rancho Cucamonga, California. The Motley also purchases jams, granola, and kombucha (a fermented tea) from the social enterprise project Falling Fruit from Rising Women.

In addition, students have found ways to reduce the coffeehouse’s carbon footprint. In 2009, they introduced an initiative to give a dollar discount to students who use a re-usable mug rather than a disposable cup when purchasing a drink. This practice has reduced waste by approximately 6,600 pounds per year, based on the number of to-go cups that the Motley purchases annually. This year, facilities manager Ariana Steiner ’16 installed a pitcher rinser into the Motley’s coffee counter, which changes the way the milk is steamed, creating less milk waste per drink and reducing the amount of water needed to wash the pitchers.

Beyond showcasing the socially conscious and entrepreneurial character of Scripps students, the Motley fosters connectedness within the Scripps community by providing opportunities to students across the 5Cs. Each semester, the Motley holds a competitive 5C student bake-off where the best-of treats are added to the coffeehouse’s offerings. The competition is held in the Motley living room, and students have the chance to stop in, sample a variety of baked treats, and vote for their favorites. (Bake-offs are held every semester, meaning new student goodies should arrive soon!)

The Motley also facilitates relationships outside of The Claremont Colleges by featuring goods from local small businesses. The Cheese Cave, in the Claremont Village, supplies a popular product—a box-filled variety of gourmet cheeses. According to Milan Dragojilovich, cheesemonger for the Cheese Cave, “The Motley Coffeehouse has been using Cheese Cave as one of its vendors for approximately four years…it is a fun way to be part of the campus culture. We’ve met a lot of students through this partnership who have become customers and friends.”