Finances Threaten To Close Celeris

Sarah E. Fawcett

LARRY WILLIAMS keeps track of merchandise at Celeris yesterday. The convenience store in Cabot House may close due to financial losses.

Its name means quick, and its stay in Cabot basement is likely to be as well.

Two years after its celebrated launch, Celeris, the University-run convenience store located in the Quad, may be on the verge of extinction.

According to Executive Director of Harvard University Dining Services Ted A. Mayer, Celeris is hemorrhaging about $25,000 a year, and will likely have to be shuttered.

No final decisions have been made, Mayer said, adding that he is open to any ideas students put forth to ensure that the store can break even.

“I think we can look at the value it has to the community and whether that’s worth losing $25,000 a year,” said Mayer, who plans to speak with Cabot’s House Committee next Tuesday.

Many, including at least one employee, were unaware of the store’s potential closing.

Larry Williams, who was running the shop last night, said he had been asked by a number of students about the possible closure but had yet to be notified by management.

Opened to counter the need for the late-night Quad to Square shopping run, the store always ran a deficit, Mayer said.

Cabot House Master Jay M. Harris responded to student concerns about Celeris over the Cabot-open list, writing that he too was displeased about the development.

“No one is happy about the Celeris situation,” Harris wrote. He said though that the closing was “likely,” if only because Celeris’ losses aren’t “sustainable for any University operation.”

For some, the news that Celeris may no longer be an option to Quadlings in search of a late night snack came as a surprise. But several said they understood the reality underlying the store’s difficulties.

Pforzheimer House Committee Secretary Sara E. B. Mixter ’04 estimated that she frequents the store about once a week to supplement the study breaks she often hosts, a tally she thinks is unusual for most students.

“I would say it’s really not an integral part of the Quad, but I really see it as a great convenience to have when you need it,” she said.

Co-chair of Cabot’s House Committee David W. Smith ’04 said that while most students generally seemed to be curious about Celeris’ future, his experience demonstrated that the store isn’t frequented that often.

“Most of the time I’ve personally been there, it’s either been empty or there have been two or three other people there,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Previously unaware that Celeris’ future is in limbo, Pforzheimer House Committee President Edward A. Andrews ’04 suggested that the convenience store be more aggressively advertised, noting that most sophomores remained unaware of its presence.

“I think that unlike the River areas, the Quad doesn’t have conveniences like C’est Bon or Au Bon Pain on hand. Celeris provides an important service in that it provides food and snacks to Quad residents at a convenient location,” he said. Mayer said that among topics for discussion at the upcoming meeting would be the question of what the E-entryway basement space could be used for should Celeris close.

Smith said he was unsure of options for the space.

“Celeris is a nice commodity, and we would all miss it should it leave, but in terms of replacing it, it’s hard to say,” he said, “We have an awesome gym, a dark room and a lot of under-utilized space like the underground theatre and the JCR, which HoCo has been busy figuring out better ways to use them.”

But some said they saw Celeris’ potential departure as only the latest in a series of slights aimed at the Quad.

“First this University wants to get rid of our library,” one student vented to the Cabot-open list, referencing plans to cut Hilles library’s holdings. “Now they don’t mind if we get molested walking to 7-11 for food at midnight?”

“I feel like Harvard is optioning to strip the Quad down to its bare bones before they completely annihilate it from the map,” the student wrote.

—Sarah E. Fawcett contributed to the reporting of this story.