A scrapbook-style graphic of various coffee items and the Suzies sun logo. (Hustler Multimedia/Sofia El-Shamma)
A scrapbook-style graphic of various coffee items and the Suzie’s sun logo. (Hustler Multimedia/Sofia El-Shamma)
Sofia El-Shammaa

‘A labor of love’: Suzie’s Cafes celebrate 30 years at Vanderbilt

Started in 1994 at VUMC, Suzie’s Cafes keep the Vanderbilt community connected and caffeinated.

CORRECTION: This article was corrected on Jan. 23 at 8:55 p.m. CST to clarify Suzie Razmus’ current role in the business and correct the spelling of Lisa Gray and Suzie Razmus. The article previously stated that Razmus was no longer a partner in the business, which is incorrect. Razmus is still involved in the business.

Searching for an oat milk latte on campus? What about a California roll? Want to top off your lunch with a red velvet cookie? Be sure to check out the four different Suzie’s Cafes on campus. 

For Vanderbilt students, Suzie’s has become much more than a cafe. 

The four locations on campus that take meal swipes and meal money are a part of many students’ everyday routines, including ours. Quicker than a dining hall breakfast yet potentially just as filling, a morning Suzie’s run is how I start nearly every weekday before my first class. I order the same thing virtually every time: a cinnamon chai latte with a side of either grapes and cheese or pumpkin bread in the fall.

No matter how often I stop by the cafe as soon as it opens, I’m always surprised by the number of students seated at the tables adjacent to the Suzie’s on the third floor of MRB III. When I have a free moment, I take the time to join them. Whether we are getting ahead on some assignments while we’re still sharp in the morning or simply taking a moment to ourselves before the chaos of the day begins, the MRB III Suzie’s is a peaceful haven for early risers.

Other students shared similar sentiments about the Suzie’s locations in the buildings that house many of the classes for their respective majors. Students in the College of Engineering, for example, often find that the Featheringill Hall Suzie’s holds a special place in their hearts — and in their schedules. 

Cheyenne Deibert (‘23) shared her love of the Featheringill Suzie’s. Despite its lack of options compared to other locations, its convenient location for engineering majors made it a common stop for her after her morning classes. The location also contributed to the sense of community within the College of Engineering.

“The Featheringill Suzie’s is my favorite,” Deibert said. “Since most engineering students have classes there, I’d always run into my friends at the picnic tables outside.” 

Without many nearby food options except for the Highland Munchie Mart, students in the Blair School of Music often grab a bite to eat between classes at the Blair Suzie’s location. Tucked away on the third floor of the building, the Blair Suzie’s has been nicknamed the “Blounge” by the music majors because of its cozy feel and the several comfortable sofas with which the room is furnished. More than any other Suzie’s location, the Blair Suzie’s seems to foster a sense of belonging among the music majors. If you walked into the Blounge in the middle of the day, you’d find students socializing and enthusiastically chattering about their musical studies — there’s often not a laptop or textbook in sight. Emma Chang, a sophomore, explained why she feels that the Blounge is so significant to Blair students. 

“I think what makes the Blounge the most special is that it’s a very safe and welcoming space for the entirety of the Blair community because we are a very small school and pretty much everybody knows each other,” Chang said. “The Blounge is a nice place for people to go between classes to chat and unwind. It’s kind of a central hangout spot in Blair.”

Many of the baristas whipping up lattes and stocking the refrigerators are also students, which adds to the connection that Suzie’s brings to campus. Sam Viera, a senior, has previous barista experience but explained that she loves working at Suzie’s because of the friends she has made.  

“My favorite part of working here is connecting with people and interacting with my regulars,” Viera said. “It is an easy way to get to know people because of how many people come through these doors. I have even made friends with some of my regulars.”

It has nearly become a Vanderbilt rite of passage to wait in a long Suzie’s line in between classes. That being said, Sophie Stachurski, a senior and Suzie’s barista, urges students in search of caffeine to be patient during busy rushes. 

“Most of us that work here are students so please have grace with us because we are also students, and we [are also] going to classes full time,” Stachurski said. “If the line is long, be patient.”

Celebrating its 30th year at Vanderbilt, Suzie’s is owned and operated today by two women: Lisa Gray and Suzie Razmus. Grey and Razmus “brought coffee to Vanderbilt” in 1994 and soon expanded to the four locations we know and love today. 

“Suzie’s was started in 1994 at Vanderbilt in the main hospital by me and my best friend and business partner Suzie Razmus,” Grey said. “It took her a little while to get [Vandebilt] convinced that they would need a specialty coffee kiosk.”  

Gray attributes relationships as one of the most important parts of a successful business. Operating Suzie’s is no easy feat, and she is thankful for the people she has connected with at Vanderbilt that make everything run smoothly. 

“Relationships are the most important part of a great business. Everybody that is part of the team is equal,” Gray said. “I feel at home up here because Mr. James is down on the loading dock and [he will] let me unload my syrups. I know that at MRB, Charles is dropping something off so I can pull in there quickly and run up some pumpkin spice before the world falls apart. The relationships I’ve made over the years that I’ve been here are one of my favorite things.” 

Gray has maintained a relationship with Campus Dining in order to offer meal plan-eligible items at all Suzie’s locations. In an email to The Hustler, Campus Dining explained the process for contracted businesses to operate on campus. 

“Suzies’ independent owners/operators are able to make decisions on meal plan swipe eligibility,” Campus Dining said. “Campus Dining welcomes conversations with independent businesses about the possibility of operating on campus, such as Red Bicycle on the Peabody campus and 8th and Roast at The Broadview at Vanderbilt, in addition to Suzie’s. Important considerations include an understanding of how to operate on a campus, the ability to provide offerings that work with the meal plan (if applicable) and the ability to remain profitable while satisfying customers.” 

As for the red velvet cookies, pasta salads and panini sandwiches available at Suzie’s, Gray is thankful for the flexibility of Campus Dining representatives and creativity from her caterers. 

“It’s a trust relationship. Vanderbilt [Campus] Dining sees that we are a track record of a business that keeps its head down and works,” Gray said. “I think they’ve sort of let us do what we do well; we are working with great caterers and have over all these years to where we can be a little more specific. I would characterize it as exactly what we both needed.”

Gray also expressed the care that she has for each student who walks through the doors at the different locations. Her message for students is to know that the Suzie’s staff will always care for them. 

“I want [students] to know that from the very top, someone cares. When I come back every fall, there is a lot of laughter and it’s very happy,” Gray said. “Suzie had a great work ethic and a brilliant idea to do coffee here at Vanderbilt. I’m very proud of what we’ve perpetuated.” 

Entering their 30th year, Gray and the Suzie’s team want to continue the love and relationships they have built on campus. 

“It’s a labor of love,” Gray said. “I had five seniors graduate last year and it’s like your own kids going away. We want to just keep going. Keep making the students happy, keep making the relationships.”

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About the Contributors
Isabella Bautista
Isabella Bautista, Deputy Life Editor
Isabella Bautista (‘26) is double majoring in mathematics and psychology and minoring in biological sciences on the pre-medical track in the College of Arts and Science. She is from Easton, Pa. When not writing for The Hustler, she can be found spending hours alone in a piano practice room, photographing Vanderbilt squirrels with her Canon camera or poring over research papers in the lab she works in. She can be reached at [email protected]  
Jorie Fawcett
Jorie Fawcett, Editor-in-Chief
Jorie Fawcett ('25) is from Tiffin, Ohio, and studies secondary education and sociology in Peabody College. She previously served as Managing Editor and Life Editor. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find her teaching, reading or pretending to study at Local Java or Suzie's. You can reach her at [email protected].
Siting Tong
Siting Tong, Staff Photographer and Podcaster
Siting Tong (‘27) is currently undecided on a major in the College of Arts and Science. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find her studying at different libraries on campus or listening to music. You can reach her at [email protected].
Sofia El-Shammaa
Sofia El-Shammaa, Staff Writer and Photographer, Data and Graphics Staffer
Sofia El-Shammaa (‘27) is majoring in political science and communication studies in the College of Arts and Science. When they’re not writing or making graphics, you can find them with their cat, Mochi, watching bad movies or reading good books. You can reach them at [email protected].
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