North Texas Daily

Brewing up a following

Brewing up a following

March 23
20:22 2016

Kayleigh Bywater | Senior Staff Writer

@kayleighnic0le

Nestled in the corner of the environmental science building’s first floor, a green coffee kiosk sticks out among the student traffic and bare walls. Lines of muffins and danishes are on display, and a variety of flavored coffees and teas line the shelves, waiting to be brewed into someone’s morning or afternoon pick-me-up.

The kiosk is small, but the overwhelming smell of freshly brewed coffee packs a big punch, as does the smiling man behind the counter.

Alexander Lasut is the person behind Merapi. For almost 10 years, Lasut has operated the coffee kiosk inside the environmental science building to provide a one-on-one coffee-buying experience at UNT.

“Around 25 years back, I started this business while I was in Indonesia,” Lasut said. “At first, coffee provided an easy business opportunity for me. It’s hard imagining myself doing anything else now.”

Coming to UNT

Lasut moved from Indonesia to the San Francisco Bay Area, but the area’s housing market and living expenses proved to be too high for his income. In search of more opportunies, he packed up again and made his way to Texas.

“I ended up here in Denton by pure coincidence,” Lasut said. “I didn’t really plan it – it just happened. You can never predict anything in life, but I think it has worked out great so far.”

Alexander Iasut serves student Jennifer Brooks on a Wednesday morning. Trevor Lloyd | Staff Photographer

Alexander Iasut serves student Jennifer Brooks on a Wednesday morning. Trevor Lloyd | Staff Photographer

Lasut tried working for Honda when he first got to Texas but missed the freedom and flexibility that came with running his own business. After extensive research and contemplation, Lasut decided UNT encompassed what he wanted to offer through his kiosk.

Lasut opened his kiosk in the environmental sciences building after a conversation with the small business division on campus. Although it is not in the heavily-trafficked Union, where Lasut had originally wanted to open up shop, kinesiology senior Linzy Bond said she appreciates Merapi’s location.

“I come here at least a couple times every two weeks,” Bond said, a Merapi’s white chocolate mocha in hand. “It’s just so convenient. Right after class, I can get a great, cheap cup of coffee without having to wait around for half an hour. It saves time and money.”

The good and the bad

His prices are cheap and his coffee is tasty, but the relationships Lasut forms with his customers are what many students and staff remember him by.

Sarah Schulwitz, a recent environmental science Ph.D graduate, has an office directly above Merapi. She has been a loyal customer since 2009 and said Lasut provides a unique experience that beats any of his competitors around campus.

“In all the years I’ve known him, he’s always asked me about how my studies are going, how my boyfriend is and just how my life is,” Schulwitz said. “You don’t always get that anymore.”

In hindsight, Lasut said he wishes he could get to know more people that come to his kiosk. It’s impossible to remember every person that buys a coffee from him, but he said he loves being immersed in UNT’s community.

“I form these bonds with my customers who come here every week or the faculty members who work in the building,” Lasut said. “This school’s so big, but I feel like an important part of some people’s everyday lives.”

With a family of his own, including two teenage sons, Lasut’s income depends on how much business he gets. Unlike a lot of corporate jobs, if he has to leave on vacation or if he’s sick, he actually loses money.

“If I don’t work, I don’t get paid,” Lasut says. “It’s as simple and scary as that. I usually get paid every day because of what I make in a day, but one emergency can mean I miss out on money I could use for me and my family.”

As of now, Lasut is content running the single kiosk on campus to ensure his business’ success. He said he would rather focus on the task at hand instead of spreading his time among multiple locations.

“The kiosk isn’t situated in the best spot — there are hard days and challenges happen,” Lasut said. “But the freedom of owning Merapi on my own and getting to know all these people in Denton is priceless.”

Featured Image: Alexander Iasut poses in the Life Sciences Building on a Wednesday morning. Trevor Lloyd | Staff Photographer

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