- Associated Press - Saturday, May 6, 2017

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - If you’re saving the world from destruction and have 20 Rupees to spare, or if you’re just passing through the University of Iowa campus, you might want to stop by Jonny’s Milk Bar.

The bar, based on The Legend of Zelda video games, operates out of Wild Bill’s Coffeeshop in Iowa City and specializes in milk. The Milk Bar is seen in the Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask game. In the game, the hero, Link, takes a break from his adventures by visiting The Milk Bar, using Rupees as currency.

For James Sullivan, 19, who prefers to go by Jonny, the bar at Wild Bill’s is the realization of a dream that began roughly a decade earlier, when he got the Nintendo GameCube for Christmas and later discovered Majora’s Mask.

At the coffee shop, wearing his brightly colored Zelda hat, he said the game series is “one of the biggest parts of the foundation that makes me, me.”

He said the colored vats of milk in Majora’s Mask reminded him of flavored milk and got him thinking about starting a business of his own.

“It’s been a dream of mine ever since,” he said.

When Jonny sought the job at Wild Bill’s, his first job, he pitched the idea of the flavored milk bar. The shop’s staff went for it, but the idea took some time to coordinate, he said. After gathering ingredients and planning logistics, they launched the idea in January.

Jonny runs his milk bar while the University of Iowa is in session on Tuesday mornings. He said he recommends the chocolate raspberry milk, but chocolate is probably most popular.

Will Bill’s, in North Hall, is a branch of the University of Iowa’s School of Social Work. The shop opened in 1975. Its namesake, Bill Sackter, served coffee there for a quarter and cheered up patrons with tunes on his harmonica.

Wild Bill’s solely employs individuals with disabilities and works with four local agencies to find people looking for jobs, said Jefri Palermo, development coordinator for the school of social work.

She said the milk bar took off right away as an alternative for those who don’t drink coffee.

“There was a huge rush in the very beginning because it was a novelty,” Palermo said.

She said Jonny is a “future entrepreneur,” and she was pleased to hire someone who would view the opportunity as more than just a job.

Abby Naeve, a social work student and Wild Bill’s business manager, said Jonny’s excitement is obvious, and he is full of new ideas for the business.

“Whatever he wants, I just try to make it happen,” Naeve said.

Jonny, who has high-functioning autism, attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder, depression and anxiety, said the experience working at Wild Bill’s has helped him “more than I can say.”

He said the job has improved his social skills and given him practice doing math and handling money. The work also aids his organizational abilities, and it’s helping him conquer a sensory barrier related to autism that makes the coffee maker sound unnaturally loud. He said the job helps him desensitize.

Recently at the shop, a group of Jonny’s former peers and his former West High teacher, Stephanie Higgins, dropped by to try the milk - she had the chocolate soy and enjoyed it, she said.

Higgins said the visit was an opportunity to work on social skills with her special education students, but it was also a chance for them to see a former classmate “following his dream.” She said she hopes the experience inspired them to think about what they can accomplish.

Higgins described Jonny as a hard worker with a genuine concern for others, and said the milk bar is “quite a feat.”

“I think he’s kind of set a standard now,” she said, adding that Wild Bill’s offered him a great opportunity.

In addition to chocolate and raspberry, the bar also offers banana, coconut, strawberry and vanilla bean milk. Customers can also combine up to six flavors, Jonny told the Iowa City Press-Citizen (https://icp-c.com/2p5SFAh ).

He said he hopes to someday open a stand-alone milk bar and expand the flavor offerings to mirror Bertie Bots Every Flavor Beans in the Harry Potter series, with flavors like toasted marshmallow. Although he plans on skipping the less appetizing varieties, like rotten egg, he wants to encompass all the tasty ones.

“Eventually, the selection will be like that,” he said.


Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, https://www.press-citizen.com/

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