Maddie Bernard ’16
Sarah Schofield never meant to go into the coffee business. In fact, before she became the owner of Northern Pacific Coffee Company, she had never poured a shot of espresso in her life.
At only 24-years-old Schofield already owned two small businesses, Quantum Health LLC and The Parkland Community Health Center, volunteered at the fire department and taught as a clinical instructor of nursing at Pacific Lutheran University. However, it was her deep commitment to care for the mental health of the Parkland community as a nurse, which led her to purchase the floundering coffee shop.
Schofield’s love for the Parkland community began during her time as a graduate student at PLU. As she studied nursing, she made a promise to herself to care for the “mind, body and sprit” of the community, no matter what.
As she immersed herself more and more into Parkland, she noticed something: people of low socio-economic class could not access the medication or proper mental health care they desperately needed. After hearing an especially inspiring speech at a friend’s graduation last May, Schofield decided to take action. Although she was still in graduate school, Schofield opened the Parkland Community Change Center with her colleague Mindy Huntington-Frazier.
The center was an instant success. The people of Parkland were able to receive the healthcare they needed and the business expanded rapidly. Schofield was able to use some of the profits from the health center to begin a program for homeless youth to get their GEDs, and the mental health of Parkland soared. That is until NPCC closed.
In the fall of 2015, the coffee shop on Garfield closed its doors. Under the old management, the hours were inconsistent and there were other problems with employees. The business began to slip. Workers were not paid for two months, and some employees were driven near homelessness.
Immediately after the closure, Scofield noticed a strange trend: people stopped coming to the health center. She realized the people she served at the health center, were the same people who hung out at NPCC.
“Doing my nursing assessment, I was able to see that a lot of people got their sense of identities from going to the coffee shop,” Schofield said. “They were going there for a lot more than just coffee. You could just see the health of the community decline.”
Schofield decided to do some research. She found that when the coffee shop experienced another major closure in the past, eight NPCC regulars got addicted to heroin, and one man killed himself. Keeping her promise in mind, Schofield used some funds from the Health Center, found a silent investor and purchased the coffee shop.
However, that was the easy part. Over the course of the next few months, Scofield recruited a team and renovated the floors, counters and walls, did a deep cleaning and appointed former employee Wes Johnson as new manager.
“Sarah brought NPCC back to life,” Johnson said. “She invested, made sure all the staff came back, kept the same atmosphere, but also did lots of renovations.”
“She was terrified of losing the community,” coffee shop artist Lauren Russell said. “She really got in to gear and made it her mission to bring this place back, because I need it, and I know the people need it.”
Now, both NPCC and the health of Parkland are once again thriving. Schofield was surprised to learn the large health affects such a small coffee shop caused, but feels confident that the purchase is fulfilling her personal mission of caring for Parkland.
“Garfield Street has such a strong community, and a lot of it revolves around the coffee shop,” Schofield said. “It’s funny because I didn’t really know coffee before I got into the business, but this is a community I have decided to take on the responsibility for as a nurse, so I had to help, no matter what.”
For more information about the NPCC, check out these links!
(Feature image by The MAST)