Wild Bill's Coffee Shop

Wild Bill's Coffee Shop logo with illustration of Bill Sackter

Wild Bill's Coffee Shop is a service learning project in the School of Social Work at the University of Iowa. The coffee shop is operated by community members with disabilities, thus providing:

  • Employment opportunities for persons with disabilities
  • Opportunities for UI students to gain experience and understanding working with persons with disabilities
  • A service amenity for those who enjoy the food and hospitality

Download Wild Bill's brochure


Mon., Tues., and Thurs., 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., during the academic year.

Closed Wed., Fri., Sat., Sun. and for University breaks and holidays. 


We accept about 30 student volunteers each semester. To volunteer, you need to attend a one-hour training. Orientation times are set up at the beginning of each semester. Other times as arranged.

Interested in volunteering? Contact our staff manager, Elliot: elliot-che@uiowa.edu


Wild Bill's Coffee Shop's address is 321 North Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242. 

For more information, call  319-335-3750 or email jen-knights@uiowa.edu.


In his book The Unlikely Celebrity, Thomas Walz tells the story of Bill Sackter, a man who spent 44 years in a Minnesota mental institution and emerged to blossom into a most unlikely celebrity. Some years after his discharge from Fairibault State Hospital as a result of the movement to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill in the 1960's, Bill enjoyed a serendipitous encounter with a young college student and part-time musician, Barry Morrow.

When Morrow accepted a job at the School of Social Work at the University of Iowa, Bill followed him to Iowa City and was put in charge of a small coffee service. A cheerful man of great good will who was a harmonica virtuoso, Bill began to inspire affectionate legends, and his life as a celebrity began in earnest. He was named 'Iowa's Handicapped Person of the Year' in 1977. (Excerpted from the back cover of The Unlikely Celebrity)

The Coffeeshop was made famous when its first proprietor, Bill Sackter, was featured in a television movie and a sequel about his life. The first movie, which won Emmy awards for co-writer Barry Morrow and actor Mickey Rooney (as Bill), was called Bill (1981); the sequel was entitled Bill on His Own (1983). Years later, Morrow would win an Oscar for his script of Rain Man.

Since Bill's death in 1983, the Coffeeshop has expanded. It was remodeled in 2009 and now employs 12+ persons with disabilities each academic year.

In 2008, Iowa Citian Lane Wyrick made a documentary about the real life of Bill Sackter, called A Friend Indeed—The Bill Sackter Story. The movie has won numerous awards. You can watch it for free on YouTube or at http://www.billsackter.com/Bills_Homepage.html

Special Events

We're always on the lookout for for performers—especially students, who would like to share their talents at Wild Bill's. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6-8 pm are available for live music, theatre, poetry, art projects and other special events. The coffeeshop is also available for use by student groups for meetings or conferences at no charge. It seats a maximum of 49 people.

The shop also has a kitchen with a coffeemaker, microwave, small convection/toaster oven, hot plate, dishes, etc. for use.

Support the mission of the coffeeshop!

Help sustain Wild Bill's for years to come by making a donation through the UI Foundation. Visit www.givetoiowa.org and enter "Wild Bill's" in the search box under "Select the Areas to Support." Thank you!