STORY BY MADDY GILDERSLEEVE
Coffee is essential for any college student on any campus, but Drake University has a unique café that goes beyond serving caffeinated beverages and has become part of the campus culture.
Locally owned and operated, Mars Café opened nine years ago on University Avenue down the street from Drake. In the fall of 2012, Mars Café changed ownership to its current owner, Justin Schoen. Drake students and community members frequent the café to study, catch up on work and socialize.
Many students know Mars Café as an opportunity to get off campus and study a bit. But some students go above and beyond, visiting Mars Café multiple times a week.
“Mars is my favorite place to study,” Cara Regan, a junior studying public relations said. Regan became a regular in the café after this summer because she was living in Des Moines and it was close and easy.
“Mars Café was a really cool mix of people because it was Drake students and a mix of community members,” Regan said, describing her first impression of the coffee shop.
“Mars Café’s got everything you need, you can stock up here for eight hours and run off caffeine,” Shelby Van Slooten, junior public relations major and a recent manager at Mars Café said.
“I began working here to pay for my sorority, but at the time I was super into coffee because of the culture and I was super into the environment,” Van Slooten said.
Van Slooten said her favorite part about working at Mars Café is “the amazing people that work here. The connections that I’ve made here are unreal.”
But Mars Café is more than a study spot or a caffeine fix. Generally, Mars Café holds Drake events “a couple times a month, ranging from poetry slams or a fraternity renting us out for their makeshift formal,” Van Slooten said. Recently, Mars has begun working regularly with Drake’s Student Activities Board (SAB).
“Mars tries to be really involved with Drake, we try to hold a lot of events for SAB,” Van Slooten said.
SAB “had two spoken word poets that came and performed at Mars Café last semester,” said Kayla Manning, a sophomore pre-pharmacy student and also one of the campus impact co-chairs for SAB.
“It was very, very successful we ended up having not enough chairs to seat everyone — Mars was pretty much packed,” she said. Van Slooten agreed with Manning.
“The poetry slam was really cool and successful in many ways because the Drake students could interact with each other and the community,” Van Slooten said. SAB continues to work with the café.
“They’re so great to work with and it’s free to be able to use that space and it’s really good for students to be able to get off campus even though it’s just down the street,” Manning said.
“Mars Café continues to work with SAB because of the success of the events — I think it’s just fun for students to get off campus and the staff is awesome and it allows people from the community to attend the event as well, not just Drake students,” Kennan Cammack, programming executive officer for SAB and junior elementary education major said.
Cammack is a regular at Mars herself.
“I go to Mars on a weekly basis, which is maybe one of the reasons I love it — maybe I’m a little biased,” Cammack said.
As Van Slooten jokes in a statement that many Mars Café regulars and SAB attendees could probably attest to, “bad things don’t happen at Mars Café.”