As students flooded campus over four weeks ago for the beginning of the fall semester, it was quickly realized that a beloved Castleton University staple, Coffee Cottage, had shut off the griddle and closed its doors.
Rumors have since spread across campus regarding what caused the closure, with a sign reading “closed for the time-being” as the only information for community members missing that quick cup of joe or sweet treat.
“I heard that they were closing down and that they weren’t opening back up,” junior Kam Strickland said. “Honestly, I was mad because that’s really the only place I’d get my breakfast.”
Bryan Bonilla, a sophomore, said that though he hasn’t heard any particular rumor about the closure, he was disappointed to see it empty on the first day of classes.
“It kinda sucked to hear it closed, because it was pretty good,” Bonilla said. “I have some friends that went there every morning to get coffee and food.”
But according to Castleton Dining General Manager Rob Macfarlane, the wait will be over soon.
Macfarlane said plans are to reopen the Cottage no later than the week following October break, but that the opening will indeed come with a cast of new staff members following the parting of long-time employees, Theresa Felix and Amanda Rollins.
“The Friday before we opened, the supervisor that was over there gave her notice, so I didn’t have anybody,” Macfarlane said. “I don’t fault anybody if they can get year-round employment, closer to home, more money, better for your family, better hours, that kind of stuff. It’s tough. It’s a tough market.”
Despite there being other employees under Castleton Dining, at the time when school started, there were simply not enough staff members to run Coffee Cottage on top of everything else.
“When we’re fully operational, I have 60 employees. We are 22 down — that’s it right there. We just don’t have the staff,” Macfarlane said. “If we’re fully staffed, I can absorb three call outs in here (in Huden) and a couple over there (at Fireside), and even one at Coffee Cottage. We can handle that. Right now, one call out, we’re closing something.”
In addition, for Macfarlane, it’s an issue of not having enough staff members that have the experience to supervise, take inventory, and run the registers at the various locations on campus.
Felix, the former supervisor of Coffee Cottage and a familiar face to regulars, said her parting was as a result of these issues with unsatisfactory work conditions and understaffing.
“I have worked (on) short staff for years and I have gone above and beyond to make everything happen (at Coffee Cottage). I did not feel that the compensation that was given to me on a yearly raise of 2% was an appropriate amount for all that I do,” Felix said.
She added that though students were encouraged to work there, no students had applied to work at Coffee Cottage in the past three years.
Unfortunately, Castleton Dining does not currently offer work studies, which is something students have inquired about.
Macfarlane did acknowledge, however, that he is open to the idea of works studies within Castleton Dining in the future and is currently very open to students applying as regular employees.
And though there will be staffing changes, Coffee Cottage at its essence will stay the same. There might be minor changes in hours and the variety of menu items, but that all depends on if Macfarlane can find enough staff to operate it as it used to.
Matthew Rodriguez, a freshman this year, said he is looking forward to the reopening to that students can once again “go in and get your morning coffee, bagel, (and) all the essential stuff.”
And though Felix and Rollins may not be there to flash a smile as they hand over your bacon, egg and cheese, both still wish the best for all students of CU.
“I miss all my students! If they want to come visit, I work at Franklin’s in Proctor, Vermont, Thursday through Sunday,” Felix said.