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Summer 2003 | Volume 26, Number 3 | Alumni
Keeping the Customer Satisfied, Espresso Stand Owner Makes Listening a Ministry

The Grinder — a longtime espresso stand just off Seattle Pacific University’s campus — is the daily trivia question. For customers who guess correctly, the owner takes 25 cents off their tab.

Kristin Swanson ’94, sole owner and barista, loves to ask her customers questions. Only a few could be called trivia questions; one might concern a student’s job search and another a regular’s relationship gone awry. “I ask lots and lots of questions,” says Swanson, “because I want customers to know I’m more interested in them than myself. People don’t get asked enough about themselves. I’m astounded to see their answers are just as deep as the questions I ask.”

For Swanson, who was a youth ministry major at SPU, it wasn’t much of a leap from being a junior high ministry intern at a church for six months to running an espresso shop for the past nine years. “I just went from youth ministry to adult ministry,” she laughs. “Essentially, it’s the same job every day in a 10-by-12 tent. But I can honestly say I love my job, not because I’m my own boss, but because of the relationships the Lord creates in here. I put a cup of coffee in someone’s hand, and that’s where it starts.”

Keeping connected with SPU, Swanson plays softball on the alumni team. She led a Bible study for three women students for all four years of their schooling. She even covered a staff member’s desk one quarter so the worker could attend a noon class.

Seattle Pacific Professor of Theology Rick Steele, a regular at The Grinder, has high praise for Swanson. “As I’ve often told people, ‘The head of SPU is in Demaray Hall, but the heart of SPU is at The Grinder.’” He explains: “Kristin personifies in her profession and in her carriage what an alum should be. She’s got a buoyancy of spirit, a genuine interest in her customers just because
they’re people.”

Every day, Swanson sees about 100 customers come to her stand on the corner of Nickerson and Dravus. Seventy-five percent come in by 11:00 a.m., and the rest trickle in until 3:00 p.m. Those afternoon people are the ones who come to talk. Many of those who talk want to know what makes Swanson shine.

“Often,” she says, “people will tell me, ‘There’s something different about you — what is it?’ Since 90 percent of my business is corporate, I try to use non-churchy language. I tell them I have a faith that’s important to me, based on Jesus Christ. Some look confused, but most nod and walk away — thinking, I hope.”

“There’s a way she’s sort of the mother confessor for her customers, a spiritual director, someone with whom one can speak freely,” Steele says. “Besides that, she’s a Mariners fan. And she makes very, very good coffee.”

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From the President
Americans today are searching for a new tone for their lives. “We are talking here about another set of values — not the giddy sense of entitlement that emerges out of exuberant times,” says President Philip Eaton.

A Gift at Any Age
Young alumni are supporting The Campaign for SPU with the Young Alumni Endowment. They will provide scholarship support to students engaging the culture. [Campaign]

Like Grandfather, Like Grandson
On June 7, 80-year-old Sheldon Arnett finally received his bachelor’s degree from Seattle Pacific. His grandson, Jeremiah Johnson, earned his SPU bachelor’s degree the same day. [Campus]

The Retiring Class of 2003
Five professors, with a combined 162 years in the classroom, retired this year. They tell of their careers and the impact students had on them. [Faculty]

Second Wind
A marathoner, wife, mother and business alumna, Claudia Shannon came back after tough times. As a 45-year-old senior, she was on the SPU cross country team that ranked 14th in the nation. [Athletics]

My Response
After 25 years, Joyce Quiring Erickson, retiring professor of English and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, reflects on glossy brown chestnuts, home and the Promised Land.