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College coffee house gets a boost of caffeine and upholstery

Alexandra Foley '12 (left) and Rebecca Lieberman '12 enjoy some downtime at Coffee Grounds.
Alexandra Foley '12 (left) and Rebecca Lieberman '12 enjoy some downtime at Coffee Grounds.

It is 1:15 on a cold Friday afternoon and Coffee Grounds is open for business. Sketches secured by clothes pins hang on the walls like laundry on a line while alternative music by Her Space Holiday plays softly in the background. The newly revamped Coffee Grounds has new hours this semester: noon to midnight Wednesday through Monday.

The hours aren't the only things that are new. With its recent makeover, Coffee Grounds bears little resemblance to last year's indie chic campus hot spot. The furniture is the bright colors of green and red. There is a shiny, new espresso machine. And there is a very professional cash register as opposed to the lock box the campus coffee shop used to have.

While the stiff furniture still needs to be broken in, the staff is as homey as ever. The casual setting makes it easy to strike up a conversation with someone you have never met before, like Ileana Herrera-Vasquez '12, a Coffee Grounds employee.

"Coffee Grounds is more like a business now. It's still run by students and the administration does have a say. Without them, we wouldn't have been able to redesign Coffee Grounds" said Herrera-Vasquez.

There are board games stashed in an ancient cabinet, crayons splayed on the tables. Huge bubble lights still hang from the ceiling. Herrera-Vasquez said the size of the crowd really depends on the day of the week and everyone is still getting adjusted to the new hours.

In addition to the increasing crowds, the jobs at Coffee Grounds are hard to come by these days. As opposed to last semester, the workers of Coffee Grounds are getting paid and it is no longer a system that needs to rely on volunteers to stay open. This semester, Coffee Grounds had more applicants for positions than spaces for jobs and had to turn people away. However, some people, like Lauren Ascher '12, a former employee, still feel comfortable enough to come in and make their own drinks in this friendly atmosphere.

Following a tone set decades ago at Connecticut College, Coffee Grounds is sensitive to the environment. All their milk is from local dairy farms, their coffee is from New London's fair trade and organic Bean and Leaf, and the staff bakes all their own goods.

Herrera-Vasquez said the people who work at Coffee Grounds "definitely want to encourage everyone to use the space for department meetings, for classes, and for clubs." The Coffee Grounds staff plans events, such as monthly art showings, music performances, speed dating (coming soon) and food events. Soon an easel will go up at Coffee Grounds for anyone to sign up to reserve the space.

"The students decide because it is student run" Herrera-Vasquez said.

-Amy Falk '11

February 11, 2009