Willoughby’s debuts in Loria

In a new coffee shop, even a centuries-old drink can be a novelty.

On Sunday afternoon, a steady stream of chattering students could be seen through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the long-anticipated Willoughby’s on the ground floor of the Loria Center on York Street. A bunch of balloons and the promise of free chocolate-covered espresso beans and travel mugs welcomed students inside. Store manager Jennifer Dadio said business has been great, but, as one student said, the location is “just another coffee shop.”

A worker at Willoughby’s prepares drinks for customers, who range from undergraduates to middle-aged couples.
Nicholas Bayless
A worker at Willoughby’s prepares drinks for customers, who range from undergraduates to middle-aged couples.

Dadio, who has worked for the company for eight years and is now the storage manager for the York Street location, said she noticed people strolling outside who seemed surprised at the presence of a new coffee shop. Employees said they have seen a mix of School of Architecture students, undergraduates and middle-aged couples. The manager said she was anxious to see what kind of businesspeople the store will attract during daytime weekday hours.

“We don’t look like a traditional storefront because we are prohibited from having a protruding sign, but I’m not worried about having enough customers,” Dadio said. “We have the guaranteed architecture students in addition to the normal foot traffic.”

As a privately owned business within a Yale academic building, many students commented the coffee shop resembles other spaces on campus, especially the Thain Family Café in Bass Library. Dadio pointed out that Yale University owns the space for the coffee shop and also designed the interior: The chairs and tables are identical to the ones found in the Thain Family Café.

Though part of the Willoughby’s chain — which includes stores on Church Street in New Haven and ones in Branford and Madison, Conn. — the new location features later hours. The store will be open until 9:00 p.m., and Dadio said she has been telling students all day that if they patronize the store up until closing time, she will consider staying open even later.

Another question that students have been asking, she said, is whether Willoughby’s will be accepting Flex dollars. She said she will pursue the matter.

“The owners did not give me a reason why we aren’t accepting Flex dollars, but it has been discussed in the past,” Dadio said.

Given the similarities between Willoughby’s and the Thain Family Café, students interviewed differed on the merits of the new location.

Lee West ’10 said though the geometry of the new coffee shop is attractive, the most important factor is taste. The new Willoughby’s would be worth the trip only if the coffee is better-tasting than that of the Thain Family Café.

Students studying in Bass, though, said there are already a large number of coffee shops around campus and that the new Willoughby’s location, even with its free wireless Internet, was not that enticing.

“If I want to go to a coffee shop, I will go to Book Trader’s, Atticus or Publick Cup,” David Kohn ’10 said, pointing out some of his many existing options.

Alexandra Beautyman ’11, an employee at the Bass café, said she doubted the new Willoughby’s would hurt her business.

“People who get their food and drink here are people who have been studying in the library, and people who study in cafés are already in other cafés,” Beautyman said.

The new Willoughby’s will be open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m, and will open at 8 a.m. on Sundays.

Comments

  • ryan

    i am glad willoughby's is here and wish them much success.

    while i do like atticus and book trader, their food prices are a bit excessive. what i would like to see from willoughby's is a good sandwich that is under $8. This is possible everywhere in the country besides Chapel Street in downtown New Haven.

  • JasonM

    Publick Cup, Book Trader, Starbucks, and Atticus serve terrible coffee - at least the espresso drinks - so cheers for the new entrant.