By 8:40 a.m. the coffee shop in Boatwright Memorial Library is well into its morning rush, with more than a dozen students lined up to order at any time. Four of Eight-Fifteen at Boatwright’s more than 30 student employees moved calmly but quickly to fill orders behind the long, wraparound counter. The sounds of steam wands and grinding espresso beans carried over to one of the café's spider-emblazoned tables, where Eight-Fifteen's manager Terri Shively sat sipping her own beverage.
“Our options are so much more now,” she said. Shively pointed out that the enlarged display case allowed Eight-Fifteen to sell a variety of healthier options, including fruits, vegetables and snack packs, in addition to the beloved pastries and bagels.
Another major addition is a TurboChef oven, Shively said, which has allowed the café to begin offering quiche during the day and a “late-night menu” of flatbread pizzas after 8 p.m. More baked selections could follow, she said, including calzones.
About 1,200 people passed through Eight-Fifteen’s double doors Sept. 9, Shively said, making a second espresso machine a much-welcomed upgrade to speed up serving time. The all-time record for customers in one day is 1,858, she said. She expects the café to average about 1,400 to 1,500 customers per day as the semester gets into full gear, she said.
The idea to expand Eight-Fifteen came after summer 2012, said Maya Vincelli, assistant director of retail operations, after the library underwent a major renovation of its study spaces. The removal of a Coke machine from Eight-Fifteen during the renovation freed up a significant amount of space in the café, Vincelli said, and "got us thinking about what we'd do with it."
Eight-Fifteen at Boatwright first opened in October 2003, Vincelli said, and "after all that time and all of that business, it was really showing its age." Negative comments about the cramped conditions in the shop through the UR Heard Feedback surveys were also troubling, Vincelli said. When the opportunity to do a summer renovation became available, University Dining Services jumped on it, she said. Vincelli estimated the café has expanded by about a third, and she credited the library for offering space in its lobby.
Vincelli said she was "not at liberty" to reveal the cost of the renovation, but said it came entirely from Dining Services funding. She said her favorite improvements included the extra door so that customers don't have to squeeze past a line to leave the café, the addition of an icemaker in the back so that employees don't have to go to Tyler's Grill to fill Eight-Fifteen's ice bin and the additional seating for study and conversation space.
Among student customers polled on a Wednesday morning before 9 a.m. classes, the renovations received stellar reviews. "It's definitely just a better atmosphere," junior Mike Cranin said. "You feel like you're going into an actual Starbucks."
Sophomore Meaghan Carrigan agreed, and said she liked "that there's a lot more space." Though freshman Shiv Toolsidass was only on campus once to visit the old Eight-Fifteen, he was impressed with the changes. "It's quite nice now," he said.
Contact reporter Ben Panko at firstname.lastname@example.org