After one long year of construction and renovation, the University of Connecticut’s Beanery Café in the William Benton Art Museum is finally complete; and the new-and-improved eatery is set to re-open tomorrow.
The Benton itself was once the very first dining hall (known as “the beanery”) to serve the UConn campus from 1920 to the 1950s. The building was transformed into the Benton Art Museum in 1966, and the café came in 2004, named “Café Muse.” The name was changed to “The Beanery” in 2010. Throughout this time, the café was always run by the Benton, according to a 2010 UConn Today article.
But the Beanery Café is now under UConn’s management, reestablishing Dining Services’ presence in the building for the first time since the mid–1900s; something that Area Manager of UConn Cafes and Dairy Bar Ethan Haggerty, is excited about, according to Dining Services website.
“When the space was identified as a good location, (the Benton) asked Dining Services to come in and operate the food venue, which makes sense,” Haggerty said.
Since the facility is now run by the university, this is the first time students will have the option to use meal plan points to pay for anything on the brand new extensive menu, which changes from week to week. It also includes a variety of gluten free baked goods, as well as specifically gluten-free sandwich options.
“And we didn’t want to open another coffee shop that’s similar to Bookworms or Wilbur’s where it’s all cold, out-of-the-fridge sandwiches and salads. (The Beanery) is kind of a mix between the Co-Op and the Marche cafés,” Haggerty said.
Haggerty also said he hopes being able to use points at The Beanery will draw more students to the space. He noted that it can be hard for people to get in and out of the Union during the lunch rush, and The Beanery shows promise in helping to balance that a little bit.
The plan was to get the café up and running by the start of the spring semester. But large-scale project complications such as design and architectural work, product and furniture sourcing, and general unforeseen factors out of Dining Services control made for a bit of an undesired late re-opening, Haggerty said.
Nonetheless, the renovation was successful and hopes to attract more students to both the eatery and museum. The gift shop that was adjacent to the café was taken out, and the walls knocked down to reveal a bigger, more open space, allowing for an extra 250 square feet of seating area. The Benton will relocate the gift shop near the reception area, which also received a more modern makeover through the renovation.
There is also a new area for performances and presentations, so students can dine at The Beanery while also enjoying entertainment. A large tiled wall now serves as the focal piece behind the counter of the eatery, giving it more of a contemporary feel. The kitchen equipment, furniture and Wi-Fi all received an update in an effort to make The Beanery a more popular hangout for students. The café will now be open from 7:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. all week long; a huge change from the previous midday, no weekend operating hours.
“We want this to be a more social place, so we did things like made sure we had audio hookups and a new sound system so that it would be good for any student groups that would like to reserve the space,” Haggerty said.