BY EILEEN O’GRADY ’18
In Blanchard’s southwest corner, the long counter with the Uncommon Grounds logo is gone. The glass pastry case which previously contained cookies and cakes has disappeared, and the ice cream window is there no more. Instead, two brown sofas and a thin brown rug fill the floor space against the southern wall. The trash bins and the café seating area are gone, and in their place are cushy modern armchairs for student lounging.
This year, many Mount Holyoke coffee-lovers were surprised to find that the Uncommon Grounds coffee shop, previously located on the first floor of Blanchard Campus Center, is closed for the 2017-2018 school year. In fact, there are no indications that the once-popular hotspot for caffeine-lovers and Chef Jeff cookie-aficionados, ever existed there.
Sofie Raiffa ’18 has been a frequent customer at Uncommon Grounds for the past three years, mainly using it to purchase Chef Jeffs and other desserts using her dining dollars.
“I only found out it was closing when I walked in Blanch and saw it wasn’t there,” Raiffa said. “I was confused, because I thought it was just going to be moved, I didn’t realize it was going to be taken away entirely.”
According to Mark Garner, the associate director of MHC Dining Services, Uncommon Grounds is set to reopen in fall 2018 as a coffee bar and brew pub, with a new name that has not yet been decided. It will be located alongside a new grab-and-go operation in the area that currently houses Blanchard Café.
But in the meantime, Uncommon Grounds will be closed for the entirety of this school year, and Chef Jeff cookies will be sold in Blanchard Café during the interim period, beginning on Friday.
Shannon Paton ’18 was a student worker at Uncommon Grounds during both her sophomore and junior years. She said the first time she heard the coffee bar was closing was when she was told by her co-workers in dining services.
“I didn’t get any official announcements from the managers who hired me about my position being over,” she said. “I know there are a lot of students who were disappointed that they couldn’t work at Uncommon Grounds this year.”
Paton noted that many of the students who had wanted to work at Uncommon had ended up applying to work at Rao’s, another on-campus coffee shop located in the library. Rao’s sells coffee and pastries similar to those previously sold at Uncommon Grounds, but the question of whether it will be able to fill the sugar and caffeine void left by Uncommon Grounds is still uncertain. Emily Jetmore ’18 doesn’t think it will be able to, due to the fact that the library coffee shop does not accept MHC dining dollars as a method of payment.
“I just wish we could use our dining dollars at Rao’s,” Jetmore said. “I always used to use them at Uncommon, and I’m probably not going to use them anywhere else.”
But although the 2017-2018 school year may be known as the year without a Blanch coffee shop, the new one opening next fall is promising to provide booze and a hipper vibe, according to Dining Services. The new coffee bar is expected to have a “real pub feel,” said Garner, who explained that the establishment will feature a full coffee bar concept, plus local wines and beers on tap.
“The plan is to start selling beer and wine starting noon to midnight nightly,” Garner said. “We will have TIPS trained staff selling beer, checking ID’s, and monitoring alcohol sales.” A small kitchen attached to the bar will serve pub-style food, with as many local and sustainable items as possible, he said.
Paton, who will be graduating before the new coffee bar is set to open, said she wishes she could have gotten to experience the new setup. “I like the idea of having a pub on campus,” she said.
Raiffa agrees. “I like that plan,” she said. “Although I won’t be here to take advantage of the new place, I think it will be really cool when it opens.”