By Carl Sessions
Students who lamented the loss of campus’s coffee shop last fall will have reason to cheer on Sunday when Bob’s Underground Café reopens.
Bob’s closed down last semester, save for a few cultural events, because of high levels of debt and a floundering business model. Now, after a newly-constructed business plan, menu improvement and 15 new baristas hires, Manager Anna Halpin-Healy ’13 believes Bob’s has remedied prior issues and is excited to once again open this campus hub.
“Bob’s has been making thousands of dollars of debt for the College since at least 1997,” Halpin-Healy said. “In the last few years, the College has been tightening its belt in various places—there’s not as much money to throw around. $10,000 is not a small piece of change, so [the College] was like ‘Sorry, we can’t fund another semester of debt.’”
Since opening in 1990, Bob’s has prided itself for many things: being a cozy space for students to socialize, hosting student performances and for brewing up coffee and dishing out creative bagel sandwiches (B*tchface, anyone?). Financial solvency, however, was not part of its ethos. Upon recognizing this problem, the management has developed a strategy to turn Bob’s into more of a real business.
Halpin-Healy explained the two main factors that dug Bob’s into a hole of debt.
“Not all of our food was priced accordingly. Sometimes the profit margin was much too small for certain items. [The other problem was that] not everyone took Bob’s as a serious business. Some people saw it as a free student canteen and took food from it like it was their kitchen. I think that’s really a shame. We lost a lot of inventory that way,” she said.
The new Bob’s will feature a few modest price increases—a cup of coffee is now $1.50—but the quality and number of options are much better. According to Halpin-Healy, the coffee is now “a million times better than it was” because of a new brewing method. Yogurt and granola are also now on the menu, as are English muffins. These changes came after reflections from writing a new business plan and hosting several open forums last semester.
“We asked what our mission was, how we will fill a role that we didn’t fill before,” Halpin-Healy said. “We’re going to try to be more of a coffeehouse; we don’t want to be the Grill. People don’t go to Bob’s for the same reason they go to the Grill.”
Events Manager Lauren Teixeira ’14 has ideas about how to further make Bob’s a spot for student gatherings.
“We are trying to have a ‘Thursdays at Bob’s promotion,” Teixeira said. “And have events—open mic nights, or dramatic readings [as well as] regular screenings of cult TV shows.”
The gilded nights of Bob’s dance parties may be at an end, however.
“The days of the allegedly alcohol-fueled parties are over,” Teixeira noted sadly. “RIP Beyoncé baby shower.”
This does not mean that Beyoncé will no longer be present. Teixeira is at work to have a screening of Beyoncé’s new documentary occur next semester in Bob’s.
“We’re trying to make Beyoncé at Bob’s again,” she said.
Bob’s Underground Café is open Thursday through Sunday from 8 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday afternoon 2 to 4 p.m., and Friday and Saturday nights when there is a concert in Gardner.