Following its temporary closing in Spring 2019, the Four Winds Café—which had been a student-run business since its original opening in 1996—reopened in the middle of Fall 2019, operated by Metz Culinary Management. The re-opening cost the college $24,000, which was used to pay Metz to assist with bringing Four Winds back on its feet, in hopes that it would soon become student-run once again.
Nearing the end of the fall semester, students, faculty and staff are wondering if the Four Winds Café will remain standing when they return after the holidays.
Third-year Katie Thomas works at the café now and when it was student run. Thomas hopes for reverting Four Winds back to its original vision. When asked about what she expects for next semester, she seemed hopeful that if meals were served again, business could grow.
“For next semester I expect us to start serving food again, most likely grab-n-go meals but maybe some hot food too,” Thomas said in an email interview. “The menu won’t be exactly what it was but hopefully we can at least have some complete meals, and some vegan/gluten free options.”
Older students remember the good old days when Four Winds was open, but many first-years had only heard stories about it and were pretty let down when they came to find out it was closed for the beginning of their first semester. First-year vegetarian Emily LaPlaca feels that her food options have become even more limited with the lack of sustainable food at Four Winds.
“Before I came to New College I thought I’d have a lot of food options besides Ham and Boar’s Head,” LaPlaca said. “So realizing that Four Winds was closed the first couple of months I was starting out at NCF was pretty discouraging.”
Due to the lack of urgency expressed from administration, the future of the Four Winds Café is still unclear, and until the student body is given any notice of what to expect from it in 2020, plans are still up in the air.
Thesis student Jay Stewart, Chair of the Four Winds Committee, says that there are currently three options for the café. These three options include convincing Metz to keep running it, students taking over completely and the third option keeping Four Winds open as a student-space without serving food or coffee. The first and third options seem the most plausible to Stewart, due to Four Winds nearly being profitable—the royalties that they had to pay Metz would have covered the losses, so it may be possible to convince Metz to take this risk. The second option would have the highest risk and highest reward, however Stewart feels that with the current lack of student engagement, he does not see this working. The New College Student Alliance (NCSA) does not have the money to subsidize Four Winds and if students were to run the Four Winds, they would lose access to US Foods, meaning they would have to buy food at retail prices from grocery stores. The third option, although unfavorable to most, has been given support by administration.
How Four Winds Can Be Saved
Simply going to Four Winds to grab a quick coffee and study with friends can do a lot for the business. Any form of involvement shows students’ interest in keeping the café open and the potential to return to its roots as a student-run business. Thomas urges continued support from students and staff, despite it being an inconvenience that Four Winds currently cannot take meal points.
“I know it kinda sucks we can’t take meal points, but maybe when we start serving more food business will get better,” Thomas said. “Not a lot of people want to walk all the way across campus just for a bagel or a bag of chips.”
Using Four Winds as an event space could help the café reach financial sustainability. The reservation procedures will most likely become more accessible to New College students soon.
By attending Four Winds committee meetings, students can help Four Winds move forward in a favorable direction. At these meetings, students gather to discuss their ideas for Four Winds and what can be done in order to steer it back to its original vision as a student-run, independent business.
“The Four Winds faces a crisis of identity and engagement, “Stewart said over an email interview. “Because right now it is being run like the C-Store, people who went to Four Winds religiously in the past feel as though it has lost something. Generally speaking, the Four Winds has been almost empty this semester. It’s stuck in the middle between being an efficient and profitable coffee shop and an inefficient and unprofitable restaurant which had charm. If the Four Winds is going to continue to exist, something needs to change.”
Information for this article was gathered from ncf.edu