Staff Profile: Johnelle Fifer

There was a nip in the air this morning, despite the sunshine, and it made me think of hot apple cider, hot chocolate, and other warmers. So I headed to the Co-op cafe, where Johnelle Fifer served me my favorite warm drink.

Johnelle has been a Co-op Barista since April 2012 and became Head Barista ten months ago. By now she knows what her regular customers like. I asked Johnelle what drew her to work at the Co-op. She told me she wanted to work with like-minded people in a community-based business. The Co-op’s commitment to sustainability was a big draw. And she wanted an environment where she could grow as a worker, and where her style and her ideas for changes would be welcome.

Johnelle likes working in a place where she can express herself. “I can be Johnelle and still be part of the Co-op,” she told me. She also appreciates the training she and her coworkers can participate in, like the in-depth education on coffee they received on a recent trip to DOMA Coffee in Post Falls. She also likes the fact that she can walk to work from her home just outside of downtown Moscow. She lives there with her boyfriend, Dakota, a history student at the UI who also works in the Co-op deli and kitchen. Together with a roommate, two dogs and two cats, they live in a “very full little house.”

Johnelle and Dakota moved to Moscow from southern Idaho to attend UI. They chose north Idaho after attending a UI promotion. “North Idaho seemed like a weird paradise,” she told me, so they decided to see what life is like here. She is studying interior design and architecture and will graduate this coming May. I asked Johnelle what she plans to do after graduating. She told me she hasn’t settled on anything yet, but she wants to take “a less traditional route.”

Most architects go to work for a large firm after they finish school to put in the required three years of supervised work to get certified. Johnelle envisions working with a small group that shares her values of sustainability and creative design. Her long-term goal is to create a communal living situation that is sustainable.

She has experience designing furniture and building in wood, and an interest in learning to work with concrete. This summer, she built and installed a rain barrel and a compost bin in her yard, among other projects. In the short run, Johnelle says she would like to continue doing this kind of work on a freelance basis. When she isn’t working at the Co-op or on her studies, Johnelle likes backpacking with Dakota. He has two years to go toward his degree, so it’s a safe bet they’ll be roaming the north Idaho woods, and happily, Johnelle will be serving your favorite warm drink in the Co-op Deli for a while yet.

Naomi is awestruck by the infinite variety of the universe's warming drinks.