Originally published Tuesday, August 20, 2019 at 02:57p.m.

TSAILE, Ariz. — Artie Shade knew there was something other than a classroom or lecture hall coming to the ground floor of the Ned Hatathli Cultural Center (NHC).

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Diné College Alumni Affairs Specialist Ken Na’taani purchases a cup of coffee at the recent opening of Warrior Coffee. The coffee shop is the first of its kind to open at the historic Native American institution. (Photo/Dine College)

But what Shade, 24, didn’t know was that the new business is history in the making. A new coffee shop at Diné College opened its doors Aug. 1 — the first at the college in its 50-year history.

Serving Starbucks coffee and a unique specialty menu, the new Warrior Coffee is part of a bigger $8 million ground floor renovation and improvement project at the NHC.

“It’s been a steady flow of people,” Andrea Ground, manager at Warrior Coffee, said. Ground and other employees hosted the soft opening — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. “The coffee is what people have mostly been asking for. I would say today was a very successful day.”

One cup of free coffee was served per customer for two hours at mid-morning as a courtesy. The remaining menu was open for those who wanted to purchase snacks or sodas.

“I think it’s great,” Shade, a student from Chinle, Arizona, said.

Shade, who ordered a vanilla bean crème frappe, was one of dozens who came in during the courtesy window. “They’ve never really had anything like this here in the past. I think people will like it.”

Ground, a Montana native and a member of the Blackfeet Tribe, said the name Warrior Coffee matches the administrative and student clientele who’ll comprise the bulk of the customer base. In a survey sent out college-wide last May, Diné College Warriors were asked to vote on a name for the future coffee shop, and Warrior Coffee got the most votes.

Ground is a graduate of Salish Kootenai College in Montana and former owner and operator of Full of Beans, a coffee shop previously located not far from Diné College’s Tsaile campus. She said she’s excited to step into the new job, and excited to introduce specialty items such as Navajo ice cream, made from butternut squash, and Navajo tea infused with peach and mango flavors.

Once fully up and running, the shop will employ three full-time baristas and three Diné College work-study students, Ground said. Brown said menu items will include fruit cups, salads, wraps and freshly-made baked goods. There won’t be any pre-packaged foods, Ground said.

“We want to offer healthy food options for our faculty, staff and students,” she said.

Marie Nez, vice president of external affairs at Diné College, said the number of people who came in is a good thing for college marketing.

“I think this just adds to the attraction of the campus,” Nez said. “This is something that students, administrators and the community can appreciate on a daily basis.”

Warrior Coffee celebrated its grand opening Aug. 19. It is open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends from 8 to 5 p.m.

The NHC renovation and improvement project started in May 2018. That project stabilized the NHC, refurbished ground floor offices and classrooms and replaced the outer window panels of the six-story building — built in 1974 and the tallest edifice on the Navajo Nation.

Information provided by Dine College

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