When students returning from winter break walked into the basement of Cabot House’s E entryway, they were met not by the familiar aroma of coffee that greeted them last semester but by the sights and sounds of a construction zone.
The managers of Cabot Café, a student-operated coffeehouse which opened last year, received a $70,000 grant from the College and Faculty of Arts and Sciences to renovate the new social space.
Jesse J. Kaplan ’13, Cabot Café’s founder and general manager, said that after a successful spring preview period and full launch during the fall semester, the café needs more funds to expand its operations.
“It was clear that we needed more money to really open the restaurant,” Kaplan said. “We were trying to take a completely open unused social space and turn it into a fully functional Starbucks, and that’s really hard.”
Kaplan said that the updates will include additional power outlets in the walls and columns to facilitate laptop use, new floors and lighting, and improved kitchen equipment.
Thanks to an additional grant from the Office for the Arts, the café managers also plan to display more student artwork on the refurbished walls.
“We’re pretty much improving everything that we can and we’re really confident that it’s going to be much better for customers in the next few weeks,” Kaplan said.
In addition to aesthetic improvements, the remodelling will allow the café to offer a “more expansive and much cheaper” menu, he added.
More refrigeration units and a blender will enable the café—where the most popular drinks last semester were the chai latte and spiced apple cider—to serve juice-based drinks and frozen concoctions, items which Kaplan said many customers have requested.
The changes will also improve working conditions for the baristas and managers.
According to Marie-Fatima K. Hyacinthe ’14, a Cabot Café employee, the space did not have its own sink last semester, forcing workers to load dirty dishes on carts and bring them upstairs to wash.
“I like the changes that are going to be made behind the scenes,” Hyacinthe said. “It will be easier for the staff working there.”
According to Kaplan, about 50 to 100 students patronized the café each night last semester. He hopes that the renovated space will draw even bigger crowds.
Currier resident Jacob J. Cedarbaum ’12—who said his favorite Cabot Café snack is the dessert from Petsi Pies, a Cambridge bakery—said he was happy to have access to a social space in the Quad last semester.
“I like that it was a cozy area of the Quad for students to hang out, do work, and I especially like that it is open in the evening and late at night,” Cedarbaum said.
Kaplan said he hopes the renovation will be finished by mid-February.
“We’re really excited to reopen,” Kaplan said.
“We think it will be virtually unrecognizable to most of the public because we’re changing so many aesthetic and operational things.”
—Staff writer Eliza M. Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.