Every campus community needs a place where students can congregate — away from the library or the dining hall — a place to meet friends or just take a break, knowing a familiar face might appear at the entrance. For more than three decades, CUA students looked to the campus pub known as the Rathskellar as that meeting ground. Now, the current generation of students has eagerly embraced a hangout of its own: the new CUA Starbucks.
Since the café’s much-anticipated opening last spring, it has quickly become a major gathering spot for university students, faculty, staff and visitors. Located on the third floor of the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, the site was chosen as much for its wall-to-wall windows and scenic views of campus as for its central location.
The first Starbucks opened its doors in Seattle in 1971. Thirty-six years and 13,000 stores later, the company has grown into the largest coffee chain in the world, with about a third of its locations outside the United States. In part, the chain’s success has arisen from guaranteeing customers a certain experience: mellow ambience, hip-but-not-too-distracting tunes, the wafting smell of freshly ground beans and, of course, an ever-expanding drink menu.
Even though the CUA Starbucks had its grand opening on the last day of classes in April, crowds nevertheless gathered. Two days after opening, Starbucks representatives made emergency supply orders to accommodate the more than 600 daily customers. The traffic has only increased during this academic year: The café now serves about 830 customers a day.
The service — not just the caffeine-fix — keeps those customers coming back. The Starbucks staff recently received a perfect 100 percent score from customers asked to rate their friendliness, quality, speed and cleanliness. Indeed, those in line seem just as likely to share a laugh or anecdote with the barista as with a fellow customer. And when the baristas see regulars in the queue, those customers are often greeted by name and drink order.
“Starbucks has made the third floor of the Pryz the place to be, to meet, to hang out,” says Bill Jonas, director of university center, student programs and events, whose office is one floor below the café. “It’s made the Pryz feel more like a student center. Starbucks has given a jump-start to our campus community-building efforts.”
At 10 a.m. on a weekday, the café is a sea of students, both in line and filling nearly every table. Several patrons already have their laptops plugged into nearby outlets, pecking away at keyboards and alternately sipping their drinks.
“Yeah! You’re here!” a CUA student waves, spotting an expected acquaintance rounding the corner of the café. The newcomer quickly settles into a small-group conversation ranging from an upcoming exam to the season premiere of a TV show scheduled for that night.
A few minutes later, Rev. Robert Schlageter, O.F.M. Conv., CUA’s chaplain, appears behind them and begins joshing the young man seated with this group of female classmates, igniting a fit of laughter from the table. He calls to another group gathered along the back wall with a wave and a good morning.
College students of the new millennium may not catch the reference to the 1980s TV sitcom “Cheers,” but, as Jonas points out, sometimes it’s nice to go where everybody knows — or seems to know — your name. — M.M.
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