Brian Helfrich


Ten years ago I moved into Tomlinson 301, and it feels like I’m back. My roommates need spontaneous naps, fall asleep with their clothes on, and often eat things they shouldn’t. The only difference is that Lewis and Doug have been replaced by my two infants, and they’re not great companions for beirut.
I re-enrolled in Davidson in the Fall of 2013, ten years after moving into Belk 301, and the last two years have felt oddly familiar. My acceptance letter is now a five-year lease, my tuition is now called rent, and my junior year feels super important.
Class of 2017, I am with you — for the second time. I’ve played this role before. I was totally unprepared in 2003, and it hasn’t gotten easier. Freshman year was fun, exhausting and overwhelming. I came to campus with an idea of who I was and who I wanted to be, of how to get there and what that was going to look like. But long days and later nights make everything a little sloppier.
Like Football Mike from 3rd Belk who wasn’t actually good at football, and Futon Rachel from 2nd Rich who merely built a piece of furniture during Orientation, we had a nickname we didn’t like (Nummit). Closing that last Blue Book in May felt a bit like waking up from a nine-month blackout. What the hell just happened?
After a summer to reorganize, reprioritize and lose weight, Sophomore year brought the second wave of false hope. “I’ve got things figured out this year,” you said to no one in particular. But at the first hurdle of the fall semester — be it bombing your lab science requirement (Edible Plants was harder than you’d think) or losing your weekend manager (pour one out for Luke) — you were walking way too fast toward the Union and those yogurt covered pretzels. Year two felt a little more hopeful, and with a little less time trying to remember the day before, but suddenly you’re two years through Davidson with no better idea of who you are.
All this is to say we’re at a crossroads in our life, too. Davidson College brought Summit to campus in 2013 to be the pub/social alternative that students had been lusting after. But those students have since graduated, and half of you didn’t even know a Davidson College without us on campus. We’re a coffee shop to some, a restaurant to others, a bar to a few and a late-night sobriety check for a few too many.
We want to be great, and we want to evolve. Like sharing a suite with Lewis and Doug in 2005, we’re surrounding ourselves with great people (Andrew, Courtney, Erin, etc…) and leaning on each other to use junior year as the springboard that it is. So we’re declaring our major: craftsmanship. We’re enhancing our coffee training so that the lattes are always great; we’re amending our food menu to highlight local food and our creative kitchen team; and we’re refreshing our programming and social calendar to make the Summit Outpost a cool place to be — for everyone. It shouldn’t surprise you that both Tim and I, brothers and Summit owners, were Center majors.
We’re still going to mess up, that’s for sure. Dropping a food order or pulling bad espresso shots feels an awful lot like sleeping through an 8:30 or turning in a C-quality paper in your advisor’s creative writing class (sorry, Dr. Parker).
I want to know what you want from Summit. More sports on TV? Quieter music? The reincarnation of chocolate lava cakes? We keep wondering — what’s going to inspire students to have beer or wine here on a Friday night? Do freshmen get lost on their way down the hill? Let’s create something great together, that all of us can enjoy.
When I applied to Davidson in 2002, I promised that I would leave the college a better place when I left. Thirteen years later I am still here, I am still working on it. Here’s to fulfilling promises.


Brian Helfrich `06 is co-owner of Summit Coffee. Contact him at