Not so “NEW” College — The Four Winds

Not so "NEW" by Bianca Benedi
A photo inside of the Four Winds, 1999.

The Four Winds has been an established feature on campus for more than a decade. Offering a variety of vegan and vegetarian options every Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

But there was a time before the Four Winds. The barn where the cafe is currently located has a long history stretching back to the time when John Ringling owned the land on campus. It has a past that includes housing elephants and serving as a boy’s dorm.

It was in 1996 that planning for a cafe on campus was started. An ISP led by then-student and New College alum Darilyn Avery (‘97) spent  January of that year creating plans for a cost-effective way of founding a self-sustaining, vegetarian cafe on campus. After they completed the ISP, they brought their proposal to the Capital Improvement Trust Allocations Committee to gain funding for the restaurant, and were granted $90,000.

In April of 1997, Avery sent an announcement to the school. “Greetings!” the announcement reads. “We are in process of establishing a student-run, self-supporting coffeehouse!”

Promising to be a quiet study space, a “meeting of the minds” and a space for student performances, the Four Winds was a new and exciting venture. Students, faculty and alumni would be guaranteed a 10 percent discount at all times, and plans to broadcast the New College Radio Station into the cafe were also announced. “Internet access is definitely a possibility in the future!” the memo promised.

The funding they received was restricted to campus improvements; their memo warned that it would “leave the project at a loss for funding for initial inventory of perishable goods, as well as capital to finance the first three weeks to three months of operations until the business begins to turn a profit. It will be self-supporting, it’s just a matter of time…”

“Expected opening for the Four Winds cafe is fall of 1997. I hope all of you come by!” the memo finishes.

Original Four Winds  plans included weekend hours, Italian sodas, freshly squeezed juices, soft drinks and specialty drinks. The most expensive items on the planned menu, assorted healthy snacks, would have been $2.50, which would have earned them a projected profit of $1 for every one sold.

Gourmet coffee available in flavored and organic brews were to be offered, as well as biscottis and peanut butter that was promised to be freshly made at the coffeehouse.

Today’s Four Winds menu is a bit different – special smoothies are a staple, the soup du jour has disappeared and vegan sushi rolls to go have become a regular staple. Bagels and croissants are still on the menu, as well as far more creative dishes. Instead of a set menu, the featured items change weekly. The prices of the items have increased as well.

There is one promise the Four Winds has never been able to fulfill: the NCSA has had to pay a subsidy virtually every year since the cafe has opened. Nevertheless, it has lasted 18 years on this campus, and has become an iconic spot on the New College map.

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