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Campus responds to opening of Bon Appétit’s C-Store


The C-Store, also known as the Cave, is a small convenience store filled with various snacks, cooking ingredients, and groceries. The establishment marks Bon Appétit’s initial foray into the lower level of Buntrock Commons. An attempt to improve and vary on-campus food accessibility, the C-Store took the place of The Lair, a small lounge in the Pause that came equipped with a stage, seating, and various musical equipment. The construction of the C-Store was announced to the student body last August, and an Olaf Messenger article published in October expressed concerns from Pause staff regarding the loss of the Lair and wariness for the lack of student involvement in the project.


Pause staff reportedly had no say in whether or not the C-Store would open. An email from Hassel Morrison, vice president of student life, and Angela Mathews, assistant vice president for budget and auxiliary operations, was sent out to the entire student body on Aug. 15 detailing the results of an on-campus dining survey conducted last March. The email also included various changes being made to St. Olaf food service in response to student needs expressed in that survey, one of which was the opening of the C-Store. This email is how Pause staff learned about the C-Store.


“That is how we first found out. We weren’t involved in the process,” said Pause Financial Manager Alex Walker ’24 in an interview with the Olaf Messenger. “That’s how we found out and also how the pause kitchen managers found out. There was no discussion with any student workers.”


Pause Venue Coordinator and Concert Board Chair Abby Johnson ’24 confirmed that the decision was made without Pause consultation. “The decision had already been made and we had to fight to get into the room where they were discussing the implementation,” Johnson said.


Aleah Keske ’24, Pause Operations Coordinator, described the C-Store implementation as “a steamroll through without real student input” at the Feb. 21 town hall.


Despite fighting to “get in the room,” students in these conversations felt that collaboration with Bon Appétit regarding the C-Store was minimal. 


“We were told that we would potentially be included on a team to discuss what items and what prices would be in the C-Store, but we were never brought onto that team, beyond that brief mention that it might be a possibility,” Walker said.


Desires for collaboration went beyond pricing, as Pause involvement in the staffing of the C-Store became a possibility. “The original plan was that because the C-Store is in the Pause space that the Pause was gonna help staff it,” recalled Pause Financial Manager Zuri Venegas-Garcia ’24. “A month before it opened they were like, ‘just kidding, we found people and we’re dealing with it.’” 


Though Pause staff felt surprised and encroached upon by the project, there was some general student involvement. Fenton Krupp ’24 has led the Stav Force One task force for two years, a team that strives to improve the on-campus dining experience through communication with the finance office and Bon Appétit Representatives.


In an interview with The Olaf Messenger, Krupp said that Stav Force One had provided feedback regarding potential C-Store prices and drip coffee availability to staff at the end of the 2022-2023 school year, but he described the conversations as “in passing.” He also found out that the C-Store would be officially opened from the Aug. 15 email.


On-the-ground reception of the C-Store has been mostly negative. At the Feb. 21 town hall, students were given the opportunity to provide feedback regarding the C-Store to Director of Financial Aid Steve Lindley ’08 and Director of Student Activities Brandon Cash ’16. Members of Bon Appétit staff were also present, but Lindley and Cash were the ones facilitating the conversation and responding to student concerns.


The most prevalent student concern regarding the C-Store, by far, was the pricing of the items. Multiple students lamented the high prices of various items, namely produce and frozen products. Students insisted that C-Store selections were too expensive, especially since many students’ Flex Dollars already feel like they’re spread too thin. On the default 21-meal plan, each meal is worth $11.17. With a switch to the 14-meal plan, for instance, students are given under 3 Flex Dollars for each meal foregone. 


Lindley also explained at the town hall that, though items at the C-Store were more expensive than their counterparts in town, the C-Store still benefits students by eliminating the financial and temporal costs associated with traveling to somewhere like Target to get groceries. One pint of Blue Bunny ice cream costs $6.75, whereas a 56 ounce container is $4.89 at the Northfield Target. A box of Kraft Mac & Cheese is $3.75 compared to $1.29 at Target. Six eggs costs $5.25, though Lindley clarified that the Cage only purchases cage-free eggs, which are often more expensive. At Target, a dozen of cage-free eggs is $2.59. Multiple students explained that they would still rather shop at Target than the C-Store. Some also voiced concerns that the C-Store wasn’t open late enough; it closes at 9:00 p.m. 


The C-Store was opened to fill a hole in the on-campus dining experience, but it’s come with various administrative, cooperative, and pricing issues that have many students concerned with the state of the project and Bon Appétit’s ability to create effective solutions to student dining issues. It is, however, the first structural change to the St. Olaf dining experience since 1999, and Lindley repeatedly emphasized that administrators are trying to learn from the experience, continually improving the C-Store over time.

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