The Motley Coffeehouse celebrates its 45th anniversary

Two women make coffee drinks
Baristas at The Motley make drinks. (Anna Horne • The Student Life)

Students who rely on coffee to power through the day will be happy to see that The Motley Coffeehouse, housed at Scripps College, is now open for the semester.

The Motley went all out for its first day, Sept. 20, displaying birthday-themed signs and streamers, and even bringing in a birthday cake with candles atop. The event, officially called “Happy Birthday, Motley!” was themed as a nod to the establishment’s 45th anniversary.

The coffee shop used the opportunity to revisit its storied past and included temporary speciality drinks on the menu like “The Mot Underground” and “Money Laundering.” The latter beverage, a white chocolate matcha, is a reference to an event that occurred in the fall of 1987, according to The Motley’s website

A manager was found stealing money from the coffee shop “possibly by making deposits and changing the deposit slips to lower amounts, then keeping the difference,” the website says. The police then investigated the situation.

It’s unclear how much money was stolen, but the website says it may have been thousands of dollars. The Motley and the school allegedly went after the culprit, who reportedly gave the money back to the coffee shop, according to the site.

“That was something we’ve been very transparent about online, and wanted to have that [transparency manifested] in the space so that people could read about it and know about it,” said Navi Shah SC ’20, The Motley’s community engagement manager. She noted that visitors’ curiosity about the new drinks could inspire them to dig even deeper into The Motley’s history. 

Signs posted along the westernmost wall of the coffeehouse laid out a timeline of The Motley from its conception in 1974 to today.

“The fact it originated and was [organized] by students is really significant,” Shah said. 

The Motley opened in Balch Hall in 1975 and moved to the basement of what’s now Scripps’ dining hall in 1991, according to the site. It moved once more to its current location in Seal Court in 2000. 

Located in the heart of campus, it’s normally packed with students, the line to order extends out the door and music blares over the loudspeakers. It’s a place for friends to catch up or spend the afternoon doing homework together.

“It seemed the community at Scripps is really based on The Motley,” said Sarah Weaver SC ’23, who went to The Motley on opening night. “Everyone was talking to each other and ordering drinks and a lot of people were saying hi to friends for the first time.”

But, it’s not all about the past at Scripps’ beloved coffee shop. 

The Motley continues to work toward its mission of being a socially responsible business that engages feminist critiques, connects the Claremont Colleges with local and global communities through sustainability and fosters independent thinking and purposeful change, according to its site.

“It’s a work in progress. And the fact that it commits to that and is willing to acknowledge that it’s not at any point in time stagnant. That’s something that I appreciate,” Shah said. “It gives us, workers, students, managers, an opportunity to make it better.”  

The Motley is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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