They know all of our coffee orders, but what do we really know about the two baristas at the Dovecote? I stopped in while they were shutting down the Dovecote for the day to find out.
Among the most notable aspects of the Dovecote duo is their mutual love of animals, healthy sense of humor and ability to make everyone feel welcomed within only a few seconds of interaction.
Co-workers Kelsey Johnson and Jessee Sisk have not always worked together at the Dovecote. In fact, they nearly did not work with each other at all. They first met when Sisk was training Johnson as her replacement. Sisk had planned to move to Bon Appétit’s catering department, while Johnson was looking to switch from her role working in the front of house in Fields Dining Hall.
That was at the end of 2019, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic forced campus to shutter its windows for the spring semester. After life resumed on campus in September 2020, there was no need for a catering department, so Sisk asked to return to her former position at the beloved campus coffee joint.
Sisk and Johnson shared a laugh while remembering the timeline.
“When we got thrown down here, it was super, super slow because not that many people were on campus, not that many people were allowed in here, and that is when Kelsey and I became one brain,” Sisk recounted.
Both baristas are local to Oregon. While growing up in the Tigard area, Johnson had visited campus a handful of times. This familiarity and her other barista experience, she said, is why she accepted the job. Sisk was born in California, but spent most of her life in Eastern Oregon near the Idaho border.
Johnson is an alumnus of University of Oregon, and holds a degree in environmental studies with a minor in food studies. Prior to the pandemic, Johnson spent two years in Montana with Foodcorps, a sect of Americorps, in which she was responsible for educating children about the importance of eating healthy and developing critical life skills, such as how to grow vegetables and cook.
Sisk attended Western Oregon University where she got a degree in theater arts with a focus on technical theater, stage management and costume construction. She jokingly described herself as the “mother hen of the costume shop.”
“My hands were on some piece of clothing for every show in college,” Sisk said. “I would do all the measurements for all the actors, I would call them and make appointments for them, and I was tasked with keeping an eye on student workers, especially in my last couple of years.”
Sisk’s favorite show she has ever seen was a high school production of “Sweeney Todd.”
“Getting to see our regulars is probably the best part throughout the day,” Johnson said. “There are a couple of people we know so well that we make their drinks when we see them coming.”
Sisk agreed, pointing to how this dynamic highlights their synchronicity.
“I can write their name on the cup and Kelsey will know what the drink is,” Sisk said. “That is the most satisfying thing.”
The pair often hang out outside of work and enjoy chatting, spending time with their pets and doing their individual hobbies in each other’s company. Sisk said the two recently hung out and had a pet playdate with their dogs. Sisk has a 10-year-old rescue dachshund named Honey, and Boone, a 9 month old Vizsla. Boone plays with Johnson’s dog, Harper.
“They are good buddies, they love to run circles around my house and wrestle,” Sisk said.
Johnson also enjoys crafting, drawing and playing video games on her Nintendo Switch. Recently, she also plays the guitar and ukulele.
Sisk enjoys reading fantasy novels. Her long-time favorite author is Tamora Pierce. In particular, Sisk admires Pierce’s strong, female lead characters. “I own almost every single book she has ever written,” Sisk said. “I have been in love with her books since I was in high school.”
The duo’s individual talents often transfer to enhancing their home at the Dovecote. For instance, Johnson learned how to make little shrimp out of plastic straws as a way to keep her “antsy hands” busy. As a gift to Johnson, Sisk sewed two pouches to house Johnson’s Copic pen collection and straw stash to take her shrimp-making skills on-the-go. Johnson enjoys drawing on the back of Bon Appétit punch cards, as well.
“We have a couple of students who, when they fill out their punch card, they will come to me and ask me to draw them a new one,” Johnson said. “We cut off the stamp part so it registers as being a punch card but they will get to keep the art. I have a couple people who have shown me their wall with three or four of my drawings on it. It is really cute.”
The baristas said the vast majority of their time at the Dovecote has been very positive.
“It is a really cool little environment,” Johnson said. “I guess I am kind of surprised with how much of a connection I have made with some of the students.”
This sentiment was returned by several students who reached out to share their experiences with the baristas. Many students spoke to the inviting environment that the duo consistently create through friendly interactions and chill indie music.
Newton Arbogast ’23 said that he is one of the students with a collection of Johnson’s custom drawings.
“I love the energy they bring to the Dovecote,” Arbogast wrote. “They are such an important part of my experience at LC. I try to get coffee every day so I can hang out and chat with them for a bit.”
Elias Guerrero-Reach ’25…
“I love Jessee and Kelsey,” Guerrero-Reach said. “They are both such upstanding workers and are the backbone of this campus. Not to mention how amazing and kind they are to everyone they serve; my interactions with them after work are what I look forward to every week.”.
Lyssa Kemble ’24…
“Both of them are incredibly kind and cordial people,” Kemble wrote. “I’ve never seen either of them act unkindly or lose their patience. I have had short but sweet and memorable conversations with both of them. Jessee and I chatted about the experience of growing up in Oregon and Western Idaho a while back, and I just complimented Kelsey on their tattoos today (they took the time to explain to me that they are of a fig and a fig wasp, which is super cool!).”
One student, Zoë Steele ’25, said Johnson gifted her a hand-painted Garfield magnet.
“Jessee and I can talk forever,” Steele said. “Today we chatted about tattoo art and the stories of all her tattoos. She has some really cool tattoos.”
Madeline MacWilliamson ’24 described the baristas as “two peas in a pod.”
A lesser known fact that Thora Kastbauer ’24 shared, which Johnson later confirmed, is that she has a “very impressive” Furby collection.
The Dovecote is not only a major hub for students on campus. Professors and the occasional neighbor also appreciate the Dovecote for its sense of community.
Associate Professor of History and Department Chair Mo Healy stops by the Dovecote several times per week. “I love them,” Healy said. “They are so friendly. Sometimes (I) show up early in the morning and they give love to my dog.”
While the majority of their job is positive, the duo agreed that there are a few pet peeves that can get under their skin. Tips to keep the baristas happy include, but are not limited to, making sure you clean up your garbage, checking the pastry case to see what is available before you order and closing the microwave after you are done using it. This last one seemed particularly reaction-inducing to the duo. When Johnson first said it, Sisk interjected, “I was going to say that!” followed by a hearty, mutual laugh.
When asked who they would want to have coffee with, dead or alive, Johnson was stumped but Sisk knew her answer almost immediately.
“It would actually be my grandmother,” Sisk said. “She passed away while I was in college, so when I was 21. It has now been 11 years since she passed away, so I would have coffee with her.”
Sisk’s grandmother Mary Jo, lived in Eugene, only an hour from Sisk’s college. Sisk recalls going to her grandmother’s house to spend the weekend there.
“I have always felt close to her but I have some really good memories of her in that time during college before she passed away,” Sisk reflected.
Johnson and Sisk agreed that their college experience was particularly difficult at times, which is why they really appreciate it when they can make the lives of students better in any way that they can.
At the moment, Kelsey is enjoying an Americano with soy milk, a pump of white chocolate, a pump of vanilla and a dash of cinnamon. Jessee prefers drip coffee with vanilla, cream, and any left over cappuccino foam from other orders.