Nothing beats a warm, freshly brewed coffee from The Perk before a morning class or settling down to study for a few hours. What really makes that cup of coffee great, though, is the person behind the counter making it, especially when it is barista Lisa Jordan.
Jordan has been working at the University of Indianapolis since 1997 and currently works at The Perk III in the Krannert Memorial Library. Although Jordan is best known for her coffee-making skills, she has not always been stirring up white chocolate mochas and vanilla bean frappuccinos. Almost 19 years ago, Jordan came to UIndy looking for employment in order to stay close to home for her husband and her two boys.
“My husband and I would switch shifts. He worked days, and I worked nights,” Jordan said. “I wanted to find a job close by and thought, ‘Hey, there is a university down the road.’ At the time, no jobs were available, but there was a lady named Susie who was retiring. [When] she retired, I got her job. And I’ve been working here ever since.”
Over the years, UIndy has made many changes in regards to its dining services.
“When I first started here, there were no Perks or coffee shops,” Jordan said. “There was the dining hall that was basically in the same spot and a little 50s diner in the basement [of Schwitzer]…. That is where I started off working at.”
About 10 years after Jordan began working at UIndy, The Perk opened. She was asked to train for the barista position and help set it up. There was a lot to learn at first because of the variety of drinks The Perk offers. Jordan said her favorite drink to make, the caramel macchiato, was one of the trickiest to master.
“When I first learned to make it, I thought, ‘That’s a lot of steps,’ and then once we started making it, it was like, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s easy,’” Jordan said.
Jordan now acts as a leader and helps train incoming employees. One of these employees is physical therapy graduate student and barista Anita Lalwani, who currently works with Jordan at The Perk III. Lalwani appreciates Jordan as a boss and a person.
“She’s the life-line [of The Perk],” Lalwani said. “Lisa is just an amazing person to be with. She is very witty, and I love witty people. She is very understanding, cooperative and empathetic. Those are the qualities you like to see in a boss.”
Jordan’s and Lalwani’s similar interests and love of coffee make Lalwani excited to go to work in the morning.
“I like waking up in the morning and being like, ‘Okay, I have to go to The Perk, and I’ll be seeing Lisa,” Lalwani said.
After working in The Perks for nearly 10 years, Jordan has mastered customer service and handling long lines on her own. She never lets the stress of long lines or mistakes get in the way of her work and giving the students what they desire.
“You know, I don’t even think about it [long lines],” Jordan said. “Because if you do, you can lose your train of thought.”
As for customer service, Jordan explained that she treats her customers the way she wants to be treated when she walks into a restaurant, coffee shop or other establishment. That is why she takes the time to perfect orders and greet students with a smile, she explained.
“I know when I go to a coffee shop, or when I go to a restaurant or anywhere where I’m the consumer, I want it [the product] made the way I want it,” Jordan said. “That’s my money. I work for that money, and I want to get what I want.”
Jordan applies that same attitude toward her work. She tells her customers that if there is a mistake with their order [so they should] bring it back.
“If it’s not made right—I’m human, it’s very possible it can have mistakes—bring it back, and I’ll remake it,” Jordan said.
Jordan knows the kind of service she likes to get from the places where she goes, and she brings that same service to her customers at The Perk. She does not want any of her customers to feel unwelcome, she said.
“I just know what I like,” Jordan said. “I like to go into a place, and I like to see a face that’s going to help me or be inviting. I don’t like walking in somewhere and [thinking], ‘I shouldn’t have come here.’ I’ve been to those places, and I didn’t like it.”
Jordan warms hearts and brightens days with every coffee she makes and every day that she comes into work with her big, contagious smile.
Jordan explained that when she began working at UIndy, former Director of Food Services and founder of Polk Food Services Inc. Ted Polk, who was her mentor and manager at the time, passed on his work ethic to her.
“He was the one who shaped me,” Jordan said. “He taught me how to treat people and always said, ‘One of the requirements to work in The Perk [is] there has to be a smile.”
Jordan said she tries to go above and beyond, to implement Polk’s standards by greeting customers with a smile, learning their names and wishing them a good day when she hands them their drink. Being able to see them smile because of her is the best part of her job, she said.
“The most rewarding part is people who come back and say, ‘ I loved that drink’ or ‘You did it just the way I wanted,’” Jordan said. “I think there’s so many things we can’t do for people to make them happy [or] to make them have a good day. I get to come to work and get paid to do it. I just like to see people smile.”
There is so much more that goes into that simple cup of coffee in the morning. Jordan lightens her customers’ days by coming into work day-after-day with her sweet smile and words of encouragement. Her desire to bring joy to others sets her apart.
“I love what I do,” Jordan said. “[Because] if I can make a drink, and it makes them [a customer] feel good then I’ve done good.”