Phil Smith has been a big supporter of Elon University ever since he stepped foot under the oaks.
"The easy and straightforward answer is, I love this place. I love Elon," Smith said.
Smith said he enjoys working for the university to the degree that he's purposely worked all over campus, including the Truitt Center and the Study Abroad office.
"Teaching students [and] emphasizing to them to pursue their dreams and passions to use them to help lead and guide the things that they do with their lives led me to trying to do that for myself," he said.
What really pushed Smith to pursue his dream of opening a restaurant was working with the Life Entrepreneurial program, which he said helped him reach his full potential.
"Not that professional development didn't lead me necessarily to higher education," he said. "It helped me see and strengthen the skills that I have that have pushed me to open up this venture and do this entrepreneurial thing."
There, Smith met Alex Ward, a recent 2014 Elon graduate, who wanted to help Smith pursue his dream.
"I never thought I would be back here at the same time next year when I was moving in as a senior, but Phil kind of had this idea of starting something on his own and doing something he is passionate about," Ward said.
A passion, which led him to The Oak House, a place where students and professors can relax, enjoy a beverage or study. Smith said he wants to create an environment that represents what Elon is about: community.
"I really like how someone put it the other day, it's like Cheers meets Central Perk [the coffee shop in the television show, Friends], where people want to gather, where friends want to gather and where people know who you are when you walk in the door," he said.
The Oak House was scheduled to open this week, but Smith continues to put the finishing touches on his dream before opening the establishment to the Elon community. The Oak House is planned to open next Friday, Sept. 5.