Despite price increases, Eau Claire college students remain loyal to their go-to shops on Water Street

Where the Eau Claire community has been going for their caffeine fix, and why prices are suddenly shifting.

Ellie Pomerleau and Noor Shami

Being a college student is expensive, but even when facing price increases at Water street shops college students stay loyal to their favorite hotspots.

Sandwiched between shops and bars on Water Street the Goat Coffee House could be easy to miss if it weren’t a local hotspot for college students and the community. Recent University of Wisconsin Eau Claire graduate, Sammy Wroge, said she is usually at the Goat three times a week.

“I come here to do homework, have meetings with other students, professors, for group projects, just if I needed some time alone to get work done,” Wroge said.

Wroge said the Goat has many attributes that make it convenient for college students including its affordable prices.

“I definitely like that it’s walking distance from my apartment,” Wroge said. “I like that it’s very central to campus as well, so I run into a lot of other college students here and it’s a great working environment.”

However, the owners of the Goat announced at the end of January that those affordable prices need to be raised. The Goat has not made price changes in over five years.

 “Prices in, you know, in ordering and supplies and everything like that went way up and we had held out as long as we could to raise prices and it just became the time to do it,” The co-owner of the Goat Coffee House, Ryan Bembnister, said.

Bembnister said that the price change will affect all of the Goat’s items. Since they have not yet had the chance to update their menus they say prices may vary with each order.

 “We’re not making money on products as much as we wanted to and we wanted to make sure we held out as long as we could due to the covid stuff and everything else going on to make sure that everyone else that was struggling could still come to our shop and still get, you know fair, cheap menu items,” Bembnister said. 

Two people enjoy coffee, a pastry, and a breakfast sandwich at the Goat Coffee House in Eau Claire, WI. (Ellie Pomerleau 2023)

Despite the change in pricing, Bemnister said customer reactions have been positive. Wroge said the price increase did not impact her opinion of the Goat.

It was indifferent to me just because I love the Goat so much,” Wroge said. “I already felt like they had good prices and I still feel like the prices are better than most coffee shops.”

Wroge said  another one of her go-to coffee shops on Water Street is Racy D’Lenes Coffee Lounge. Racy’s Supervisor, Joushua Treankler, said they are a hub for college students as well.

We definitely have a lot of college students, obviously being so close to the university, but we have a pretty acollectic crowd,” Trankler said.

Treankler describes Racy’s as an inclusive spot that is known for their laid back vibe. Racy’s has a bigger menu with food and drink items at varying costs.

“If you come in here and hang out you can get a small cup of coffee for $1.50,” Treankler said. “You can also get espresso drinks that run from, I mean I’m looking at the menu up here, from $6 up to a little over $7.”

Treankler said the last price increase at Racy’s was just several months ago.

I think it was more in relation to what we all had got and we all got a cost of living, kinda raise, so then prices went up as well,” Treankler said.

Although Racy’s and the Goat made recent price increases, the co-owner of the New Fast & Fuel Location on Water Street, Dakota Yarringdon, said they have found the sweet spot for their prices. Fast & Fuel is a food stop that focuses on healthy eating by providing products such as acai bowls and avocado toast.

 “The customers are really coming back repeatedly, so we feel that it’s a good price range for everybody,” Yarringdon said. 

Yarringdon said prices range from around $6 for avocado toasts and then bowls, salads, and wraps are around $9.99. He said one of the goals is affordability and they are not expecting to raise prices anytime soon.

Despite the differences between each shop and recent price increases for the Goat and Racy’s, the college students continue to pour in.