College town coffee shops

Nyiah Gesink—Staff Writer

One of the absolute most important parts of choosing a college is knowing the culture of the school you are looking at and how you might fit into that culture. One of the best ways to see the culture: go to one of the town’s coffee shops.

Northwest Iowa is home to three different colleges including Dordt University, Northwestern College, and Northwest Iowa Community College. The area alone has around a dozen coffee shops for students to choose from. One such growing gem is The Grain House.

Located in Hull, Iowa, a short 15-minute drive from Dordt, The Grain House has had quick success since its opening in 2021. The space is split into two sections: one for home goods and one for the coffee shop.

Before you walk in, make sure you pull the door out, not push it in. The look of the door and where the lip is located is a bit deceiving, at least it was to me. To save you from any embarrassment, make sure you pull, not push.

The atmosphere when entering is palpable and contagious.

“It’s a calm atmosphere, just a nice place to sit and do homework or chill,” Taryn Spoelstra, a sophomore nursing major who has worked at The Grain House for a year, said.

Lantern lights hang from the exposed ceiling and match the rustic look of the wooden and brick walls. Two high-rise tables line the front garage door walls which can open during warmer days. The doors are made up of windows which provide a sort of natural, encouraging light.

Before ordering, you should look at the drinks of the month.

I would suggest any sort of coffee that is iced, my favorite being the brown sugar cinnamon iced latte. Don’t forget to add cold foam. The vanilla cold foam is made right in front of you, it is not pulled out of the fridge, and makes for a great top for any cold coffee.

However, The Grain House does not only serve coffee for drinks. There are also smoothie options, tea options, chai options, as well as alcohol options for the older crowd.

“Training took a long time,” Spoelstra said. “It was a lot of memorization, there are so many different options it took me a couple of weeks to get everything down.”

While The Grain House has a lot of competition, the most comparable being Rooted, in many ways it stands out from its opposing shops. For one, the space is very large. There is room for multiple people to spread out, push tables together, or move around as they wish. Whereas most coffee shops in the area are relatively small with limited seating, The GrainHouse stands out in this way.

While their food, drinks, and space do set them apart, it is not the most prevalent thing that draws college students to The Grain House. Instead, it is the atmosphere that is immediately felt upon arrival.

“It was really cute and very well decorated,” Jenna Wolfswinkel, a sophomore Administrative Assistant major who used to work at Casey’s Bakery, said. “I liked that it had a lot of places to sit for people, to eat or do homework or anything like that.”

The wood and brick walls combine to make a very warm feel, turning homey when you sit next to the fireplace. While the style of the area is not modern, the furniture is new and the space is always clean. The sound of the coffee machine is quiet and comforting, and chatter is constantly ringing. Natural light makes up more than half of the space’s lighting, giving a sort of outdoor feel to the inside.

Some college students have taken to working at The Grain House, while others find themselves enjoying the space for studying and homework. As a place in between Dordt and Northwestern, the different schools have found a sort of unity in the new place. There is constant studying going on, reading, and conversation with students as well as community members.

If you are out looking for a college and want to know what the culture of the school is like, you need to look no further than the coffee shop. If you want to see how higher education in Northwest Iowa would be, pop into The Grain House for a perfect picture of life here.

Contributed photo

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