Student Retailers Respond to Changes in Business Landscape

Jenison High School’s ‘Green Bean’ coffee shop and ‘Cat’s Corner’ spirit store offer more than just a place to snag a tasty snack and the latest Wildcat wear. They are both self-sustaining, student run, school-based enterprises providing real life business experience. Students develop plans for the shop and are responsible for the operation, including details like ordering products and even dealing with the Health Department.

The Career and Technical Education classes in the business department at Jenison High School are relevant and help students gain valuable insight and skills for college or future careers. Through both levels of her Marketing Studies classes, Jordan Whittecar leads groups of students as they manage the operations for the storefronts. The student groups represent six different business ‘departments’ including Visual Merchandising, Operations, Digital Marketing, Human Resources, Finance/Inventory, and Promotion.

After an abrupt closure in March, the business students now face reopening both operations in a completely different business atmosphere. As the school year resumed, the marketing students have been part of the preparing and planning for this new business climate. Tackling the current challenges include restaurant trainings sponsored by the Governor’s office, writing their own Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Plan and planning a shift in distribution for the sale of retail items.

Last week, students representing the Operations team met with high school principal, Dr. Brandon Graham, and presented their plans to reopen both storefronts and safely move forward. Approval was given and they are very excited to be back serving customers soon. 

The Green Bean coffee shop is located in the High School Media Center. This was an important part of their original intent to provide a central location for students to enjoy a beverage or snack and relax or get some homework done in a casual environment. However, current social distancing practices and limiting the gathering of people throughout the school building makes it impossible for students to visit the Green Bean. The students went to work figuring out what would be needed to shift to a ‘take-out’ and ‘delivery’ model. They will be putting technology to work for them and utilizing a website order form. This will allow students to pick up their order or receive a delivery.

The Green Bean delivery cart will be visiting classrooms soon to serve students and teachers. Hannah Gingerich is ready to offer service with a smile.

Students, Sophia Velez and Alyson Scholten have been stepping into leadership roles getting both stores open. They recently represented the students in a virtual brainstorm session with Erin Mitrzyk, a designer from the Visual Merchandising team at Wolverine Worldwide

Advanced Marketing Students Sophia Velez and Alyson Scholten

They came away with some real life application and ideas to reopen and encourage sales to continue. The marketing students will proceed to evaluate the ideas, which include a possible new reward and incentive program for both students and teachers, a program to schedule automated orders (managing workload of orders and minimizing classroom disruption), and a possible alternative payment method suitable for students of all ages (reloadable payment card or account).

Cat’s Corner is also located inside the high school and is following social distancing and mask protocols as you see in other retail locations around town. Currently, customers who are not students and/or teachers are not allowed in the building. This has required the students to investigate other ways to keep business moving. Online ordering has already been an option so they will continue to evaluate ways to make that a seamless process with affordable shipping options. Something new for this year is a tent sale scheduled for next week. It’s really exciting to see these students embracing the current challenges and coming up with some creative ideas. If you’re able to support either of these student businesses, please do – and be prepared to be impressed at the professional level of service and goods!

The Cat’s Corner Tent Sale outdoor tent sale is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday (September 30 and October 1) from 7:30am – 5:00pm both days. Stop by for some great deals on Jenison merchandise.

Orders can also be placed on the Cat’s Corner website and shipped directly to you. SHOP NOW at

Check out other stories about Cat’s Corner and the Green Bean:

Jenison High School DECA Students Take Honors

Jenison High School, DECA, student leaders, Cats Corner, Green BeanThis winter, Jenison High School DECA students achieved something remarkable when they were awarded Gold Level Certification for the high school’s newly-opened Green Bean Coffee Shop, and Gold Level Re-Certification for the 35 year-old Cat’s Corner.

Achieving this status requires months of rigorous paperwork that results in a determination for Bronze, Silver, or Gold Status. Students must collaborate to articulate how operations are sustainable and environmentally friendly, outline all emergency exits, describe store products, and detail equipment and product pricing, to name a few.

Working on the Gold-Level Certification for the Green Bean were Emily Garland, Jon Nordquist, and Anthony Lemanski. Students submitting work on the Re-Certification of the Cat’s Corner were Caleb Adrianson, Haley Venlet, and Monique Viau.

Jenison High School, DECA, student leaders, Cats Corner, Green BeanDECA student Edwin Ramirez volunteers in the Green Bean during his first hour Advanced Marketing class, and often spends lunch hours manning the Cat’s Corner as well.

“I like the hands on work. I enjoy taking the time to help. Customer satisfaction is a big thing, and it’s cool when teachers from around the district come in for coffee or to shop. I have a little brother in elementary school, and now his teachers know me. I like that.”

Jon Nordquist has been working in the Cat’s Corner for three years, and now has his fourth hour class scheduled as “co-op” time so that he can commit more dedicated time to this school-based enterprise (SBE).

“Working in the middle of the day gives me a break — I’m a really energetic person and I love getting up and interacting with people. It’s the best part of my day.”

Jenison High School, Cat's Corner, Green Bean, DECA

All the students agreed that whether they’re selling T-shirts or cappuccinos, participating in DECA has given them skills that will last a lifetime. Learning how to present themselves as young professionals, to dress the part, to be self-motivated and pursue excellence, and to work well with others are tools that will advance them in any future endeavor.

Dr. Clark is quick to credit her students for this success. “We had 9 students qualify for the International DECA Conference through written projects and online competitions even before the State Conference was held!”

Congratulations to this dedicated group of students! Jenison is proud of you!