A latte love: Ponder Coffee Company expands to Health Professions Building

Students sit and work inside the new Ponder Coffee shop on Tuesday, Jan. 10 inside the Health Professions building.

The Health Professions Building on campus at Central Michigan University is a quiet and focused space. Down one of the first-floor hallways, however, is a warm coffee shop, full of customers and the hum of various machines. A red and black mural presents itself across from wooded shelves holding plants in a modern-rustic setting. 

Ponder Coffee opened in 2014 on Broadway Street. The company began expanding through Mount Pleasant in the fall of 2018, opening its second location near campus on Franklin Street. In 2021, it moved into the Park Library in the former Java City Coffee location, and on Jan. 9, Ponder opened its newest location in the Health Professions Building on campus.

CMU student Lily McLean said this new location is useful to her. 

“I have a lot of classes here, and I need my coffee,” McLean said. 

Christy Cromar, a co-owner of Ponder Coffee said the business had to change how it functioned throughout the pandemic to comply with health orders as they changed. 

"A large part of the success was just the community continuing to support,” she said. “I think a lot of folks shifted their mindset during the pandemic. As they watch their beloved small businesses go out of business, they started to consciously make an effort to support … small businesses.”

Shelby Township sophomore Ava Hallam browses the food options inside the new Ponder Coffee shop on Tuesday, Jan. 10 inside the Health Professions building.

According to Austin American Statesman, through the pandemic, there were 37.5% fewer small businesses open nationwide, compared to January of 2020, two months before the pandemic hit the United States.  

CMU student Matty Barrow attributed the success to community support and other factors. 

“I think it’s the community outreach,” Barrow said. “They’re more than enough quality to sustain themselves.”

Brendan White, a Ponder Coffee employee and junior at CMU was excited about the new location opening and happy that Ponder Coffee is doing well enough to open a fourth location. 

While most employees will remain at their respective locations, some staff have switched locations to facilitate the opening of the new site. White was not one of them.

“I know we've kind of rearranged the scheduling and moved people around to facilitate (the opening of the new location), so that we don't have new people exclusively in that location, and keep things running smooth," he said.

Peyton Thibodeau, a day-one customer at the new Ponder location, said being able to use flex dollars at the different locations made the company more appealing.

Customers at both locations preferred Ponder’s coffee over any other place in the area.  Several mentioned that they only ever go there for coffee anymore.

“It’s my favorite place on campus,” Barrow said. 

Paige Murphy, a Ponder Coffee employee, said the new location was an amazing move for the business.

She relocated to the Health Professions Building to assist in getting the new location up and running. 

“I've been here for about a year and a half, so to see it expand is great for everybody," she said. "It's really exciting.”

Cromar said that none of their expansions were planned, including the fourth location. 

“It's just opportunities that have arisen that we've evaluated and decided we're worth the risk,” she said.  

But, she added, don’t expect a fifth Ponder any time soon. 

“We need it to be financially viable, but at the same time, it's not all about the money,” Cromar said. “We're not looking to just expand and become this thing that's … (turned) the corporate way.”