Plans for local coffee shop with GV ties cut short


Courtesy / Rose Ridge Coffee

Lauren Formosa, Staff Reporter

This past summer, when Christiana Stankewitz and her business partner Kendall Gardner decided to take a leap of faith and start a small business at Grand Valley State University, the plan was to open a coffee shop at Campus View apartments. The process began smoothly, but as things got more complicated, their aspirations of owning and operating said coffee shop fell through. 

Their journey started when Gardner introduced Stankewitz, who was her new friend at the time, to her father, Brian Gardner. Stankewitz mentioned to him that her end goal was to one day own a coffee shop and, as the owner of Campus View apartments, Brian responded by saying that they could do it.

He had a few food carts from prior investments, and the idea of a coffee cart not only seemed like a good way for his daughter and Stankewitz to have the opportunity to start a business, but also another smart long-term investment on his end. From there, Rose Ridge Coffee was in the process of becoming a reality for the two aspiring businesswomen.

“Since I had already been working towards my dream of owning and operating my own coffee shop, training, and preparing, I was excited for the opportunity that this would present,” said Stankewitz.

The plan was to put the coffee cart on a plot of unused land next to Pierce Street. Rose Ridge was expected to be a place Campus View residents and GVSU students alike could use as a hangout stop or study area while enjoying fresh roasted coffee and pastries. While it seemed simple enough in theory, all parties quickly realized that Rose Ridge would be a commitment that would require hard work and dedication on all ends.

“When I said, ‘Hey, let’s do this,’ I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” Brian said. “I thought we were going to take the cart, fix it up, put some gravel down and open it up.”

Both girls spent a month and a half together working out designs for layouts, filing paperwork, meeting with vendors and creating a joint bank account. On his part, Brian worked to handle the financials of Rose Ridge, putting in roughly $70,000 total to get the cart functioning.

The group agreed that Brian would own 100% of Rose Ridge while Kendall and Stankewitz would work as managers until they could evaluate at a later date.

Everything seemed to be running smoothly and they hoped to have Rose Ridge operating in the coming months. That was, however, until a personal issue occurred between Stankewitz and Kendall.  

Kendall had broken up with her boyfriend, who happened to be the twin brother of Stankewitz’s boyfriend. While the girls were still on good terms, both of the boys were potentially going to work alongside them at Rose Ridge and Kendall didn’t feel comfortable with that arrangement.

When she went to her business partner to voice these concerns about separating them from the business, Kendall said Stankewitz claimed that her loyalties were to her boyfriend and his brother.

After hearing this, Brian was no longer comfortable entering into business with two managers who didn’t trust each other decided to end the partnership. Since this was an investment for him, he said a business has to have leadership that can depend on each other.

“I’ve started about six businesses in my life and it’s hard,” said Mr. Gardner. “You can’t start a business like this if you start with a partner who has stated, ‘My loyalty is not to you,’ or, ‘My first obligation isn’t to the business.’”

Brian proposed to pay Stanketwitz a $20 an hour manager’s wage as well as compensation for the time and effort she put into Rose Ridge. When she came back with a counteroffer he felt was unrealistic, he decided it was best to give the Rose Ridge LLC to Stankewitz and move on, effectively bringing an end to Rose Ridge Coffee.

This was an unfavorable outcome for all parties, especially for Stankewitz, who said she was so close to her dream of owning a coffee shop.

“As of right now, I can’t open Rose Ridge because I don’t have the funds,” Stankewitz said. “My dream has always been to open a coffee shop, and I’m confident that someday I will be able to restart and pursue my dreams.” 

As for the Gardners, they too hope to one day revisit their plans to open a coffee shop at Campus View and create a space for GVSU students to frequent and enjoy.