Coffee Cottage complications

The doors to Coffee Cottage are still closed some two weeks after the proposed reopening, originally set for the week of Oct. 10.

Castleton Dining General Manager Rob Macfarlane first reported the reopening in an article in the Spartan on Sept. 21 but, according to Macfarlane, unforeseen circumstances have delayed the effort for an unknown amount of time.

“The person I had hired to open it up backed out at the last minute when some things in her life changed,” Macfarlane wrote in an email. “As for a target date that we will be open, I honestly can’t say. I would love to be open before the Thanksgiving break, but that likelihood is slim.”

As of last week, Macfarlane wrote that he is currently in the process of interviewing applicants for the managerial role at the Cottage and is hopeful to have an offer out by today, Oct. 26.

But considering that onboarding the new employee will take at least two weeks and that all applicants are employed and will need sufficient time to give their notice, Macfarlane wrote that until someone is hired and has a definitive start date, he “can’t begin to guess” when exactly the reopening will happen.

“(Hiring someone) will solve the management side (and) I can back fill the food service worker piece with people from Huden temporarily with the hopes we can hire dedicated people. But in the beginning, it will get us open. (I) may need to adjust the operating hours as well, but at minimum it would be breakfast through the lunch hour. (I’m) just not sure until I see what we are able to do,” Macfarlane stated.

Kaylyn Cottrell, a fifth-year student, said that Coffee Cottage has always been a preferred dining option on campus for her and others, but that she understands the issues facing dining staff when it comes to reopening.

“I think a lot of people understand that it comes down to a staffing issue. I think people are really aware of that — especially with COVID and how that (has impacted) the process,” Cottrell said. “I feel like it comes down to compensation. And I’m not blaming anyone for it not being open, but it’s definitely frustrating from a consumer perspective.”

Macfarlane acknowledged the issue of understaffing facing dining staff, noting that his team is operating at 50% of the staff they would normally have — making it incredibly difficult to place staff between all three dining locations.

“The labor market is tough in general, but even more so in the food/hospitality industry. I can’t pinpoint why that is, but it’s been a grind to even get applicants. I took a chance on some things with this posting and it worked out. I’d like to say it was me, but I think the reality is folks are starting to look (for work) again, which hopefully will bode well for us in general,” Macfarlane wrote.

In the meantime, students like Cottrell are sourcing other options for their caffeine and breakfast sandwich fix.

Despite not offering the same sit-down environment that Coffee Cottage does, Cottrell has turned to the Jiffy Mart in Castleton — which offers a similar rewards program to Coffee Cottage’s punch card program.

“You get to make your own coffee and work up to getting those rewards — which I think is great,” Cottrell said. “(But) it’s definitely disappointing not having that sit-down space to be able to drink your coffee, eat your breakfast and be able to be on your laptop at the same time.”

Chance Jaquin, a freshman, said she’s been mainly opting for Fireside or Dunkin’, but given that most of her classes are in Leavenworth, she is definitely interested in the convenience of the Coffee Cottage.

“I heard a lot of people were upset about it being closed,” Jaquin said. “I think everyone’s just kind of excited for it to be back open.”

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