Cool Beans and College Grounds has been a convenient spot for a cup of coffee and a quick bite to eat for years.
Located on College Street, many students, faculty and staff are familiar with the little two-story house to the left of the James F. Byrnes Building.
“I like to say that it’s kind of like the holy trinity,” Annalee Fricker, a full-time manager at College Grounds, said. “It’s College Grounds, Cool Beans and Cool Beans as a whole, as a company.”
Though Cool Beans and College Grounds are considered different businesses, they are actually owned by the same person. Both Cool Beans and College Grounds sell food and coffee, but College Grounds, on the first floor, focuses on food with a regular menu and a special menu that rotates every two weeks. Vegan options are always available, even with the consistent changes to the menu.
In this way, the two businesses complement each other. Whereas its downstairs neighbor prides itself on its food, Cool Beans’ specialty lies in coffee. Cool Beans has a panini grill, microwave, hot plate and toaster, but lacks the resources that College Grounds has. In turn, College Grounds does not have an espresso bar, though it does offer a small variety of coffee. This results in the businesses living in harmony as customers come in and out.
The convenient coffee shop has been a staple for USC students for years. Cool Beans loves its customers from the university just as much as students love its coffee.
“We really just like being a open and inviting space where people can come in, get a cup of coffee or get a bowl of grits and just work on their homework for however long they want,” Ansley Gaskins, a fourth-year English student and Cool Beans barista, said.
One thing the baristas pride themselves on is the ability to make just about any cup of coffee one desires. The coffee shop has a wide assortment of syrups — which means one has a "latte" to choose from.
Two of its best sellers include the Perfect Woman and the Perfect Man. The Perfect Woman is traditionally a hot sweet latte with one shot of espresso, homemade whipped cream and chocolate discs. Gaskins said this is a good beginner’s coffee. The Perfect Man consists of an iced breve with one ounce of Irish cream syrup.
On Wednesdays, after College Grounds closes at 5 p.m., the coffee shop hosts an open-mic night called “Mind Gravy.” This gives local artists the opportunity to showcase their work, whether it be singing, reading poetry or playing an instrument.
For avid coffee drinkers and Cool Beans enthusiasts alike, Cool Beans offers a card that will give customers every 10th drink free.
Though Cool Beans has only supplied the Columbia area with coffee and food for a little over two decades, the building itself has been around for over 100 years.
Prior to Cool Beans, the house has seen a hair salon, hippy cafe and the utility closet was once a bathroom. The house is so old, in fact, that there is a running joke of a ghost named Billy.
“We had to acknowledge that something weird is happening, whether it’s actually a ghost or it's just our paranoia,” Fricker said about weird occurrences, such as a faint scent of cologne after hours or a breeze that wasn’t there before. “We're naming it Billy, either way.”
One of fourth-year history student Hunter Richardson’s favorite things about working at Cool Beans is the way it connects people from around the world.
“The cool thing about coffee is that it’s kind of, like, universal,” Richardson said. “As a history major, I think it’s really cool that there is this massive history behind coffee.”
Ansley and Fricker each said they appreciate the bonds they have formed over the course of their time at Cool Beans and College Grounds, which are like "family."
“That’s probably my favorite part about working here, is how close everyone gets and how tight-knit this coffee shop is, even with the customers,” Fricker said.