Music, students, and general merriment spilled into Seal Court as Scripps College’s Motley Coffeehouse celebrated its 40th birthday last Thursday, Sept. 12. The event drew masses of Scripps and 5C students, who formed a line out the door. Baristas in party attire weaved through the crowd, offering slices of birthday cake to waiting customers. Inside, Skylar Funk PO ’10 and Upland-based band Mildura performed for the packed coffeehouse.
The 40th birthday party, which also marked the coffeehouse’s annual opening, was the kickoff event for a year of new projects and events at the Motley.
“The mission of the Motley has really changed over the years,” Head Manager Julia Howard SC ’14 said. “When it began in 1974 in Balch Hall, it was merely a place for Scripps students to hold events. Now the Motley is not only a place for people to come together, but a place to educate as well.”
The Motley has served as a forum for social gatherings, musical performances, activism, and sustainable business practice.
Its mission statement reads, “Our mission is to be a socially responsible business that explores diverse feminist critiques, to connect the Claremont Colleges with local and global communities by perpetuating sustainable supply chains, and to foster independent thinking and purposeful change.”
The tenets of the mission statements are further demonstrated in the diversity of the Motley’s departments, which include finance, networking, and facilities in addition to products, music, and community engagement.
Historically, the coffeehouse has hosted events and discussions with 5C student groups, ranging from feminist roundtables to movie screenings.
The entirely student-run coffeehouse employs 10 managers and 49 baristas.
“We are truly able to collaborate to make the Motley into a productive and welcoming business environment,” Howard said.
Products Manager Catherine Holcombe SC ’14, who works exclusively with local distributors, said, “There is reasoning behind every single product on our menu.”
According to Holcombe, the Motley works with Cheese Cave, Podge’s Claremont Juice Co., and Last Drop Cafe in the Claremont Village to provide local products on campus. The Motley sources its coffee from Klatch Coffee, an Upland-based direct trade company.
“We have an extremely close relationship with Mike, the owner of Klatch, who travels to all the farms, pays the growers better than most fair trade companies, and even built medical centers for the growers. Klatch also helps us train our baristas,” she said.
Earlier this year, Holcombe developed a relationship with Falling Fruit for Rising Women, a social enterprise based out of Crossroads Women, a local nonprofit that helps women on parole transition into careers after serving time in prison.
“After interning with the women through professor Nancy Auerbach’s food politics course, I decided to make this connection and stock the Motley’s shelves with Crossroads’ homemade marmalade and kombucha,” Holcombe said. “In the spring, I’m excited to sell fresh bottled lemonade from Crossroads as well.”
“This year, our Community Manager decided we will host events Tuesday afternoons and Friday evenings so students will always know when to come,” Howard added.
At 3 p.m. today, the Motley will be hosting its annual student bake-off. During the bake-off, Scripps students compete to become permanent suppliers of fresh baked goods for the shop’s pastry case. Student tasters are the judges, so 5C students are encouraged to head to the Motley to try treats for free.
Motley events also frequently include musical performers.
“Lucy Blumberg [SC ’15], our music manager, has been collaborating with SLA [Scripps Live Arts] and KSPC on bringing in musicians to perform in the space. She also wants to bring in students to perform at the Motley, and contribute ideas to the music we play in the space,” Howard said.
Blumberg added, “The Motley is expanding its palate by incorporating new and exciting music acts. Look forward to some pretty groovy nights.”
The Motley also involves itself with the greater Claremont student community through monetary sponsorships.
According to the coffeehouse’s website, the Motley “grants financial sponsorship to students from the 5Cs who need money for their theses, internships, special projects, or anything related to their work or the 5C community.”
Howard added, “Scripps students can apply for individual sponsorships, while all 5C groups are open to receive sponsorships as well.”
After 40 years of serving students, moving into four different locations—including a Frankel Hall exercise room for one year during construction on their permanent space—and hosting numerous events and performers and serving student-baked treats, the Motley has become a defining characteristic on the Scripps campus. The Motley means something different to every student, many of whom love its uniquely decorated space.
Most Motley regulars attest that the ambience is what draws them into the coffee shop.
“The laid-back environment at the Motley, with its indie music and constant flow of customers, makes it an ideal study spot for me,” Juliana Beall SC ’16 said. “Students seem genuinely engaged in what they are doing, and the Motley ideals of acceptance, diversity, and community, seem to permeate throughout the atmosphere.”
The coffeehouse is popular with other 5C students as well.
Motley regular John Montesi CM ’15 said, “Living off campus, it makes more sense to hang out there between classes than it does to bike back home. As a coffee-loving Lit major, there’s nothing better than grabbing some Klatch coffee and sitting in a very non-school-feeling room filled with wonderful women—and sometimes men—to get a little bit of work and a lot of conversation done.”
On a recent late night when the Motley was filled with students finishing assignments, a first-year boy was shocked to realize a picture of a tampon was placed on the table underneath his economics textbook. The five women sitting around him all perked up.
One said, “Isn’t it awesome? Welcome to the Motley.”