In the third-floor lounge of Kroon Hall, a snack bar stand made of wood from Yale’s forests has sat unused since the building’s opening in fall 2008.
But by Wednesday morning’s official opening of Kroon’s BYO Café, coffee and pastries filled the countertop. The launch capped one and a half years of efforts by students at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies to bring a functioning snack bar to their part of campus on Science Hill. The student-run café will sell coffee and pastries purchased from Blue State Coffee.
Huijia Phua FES ’10 said she had the idea to open the coffee bar after noticing a void when she arrived at the forestry school in fall 2008. Indeed, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, School of Management, Law School, Divinity School and Medical School all already have cafés or dining halls. The café in Kroon will emphasize sustainability, which Phua said is important to FES students. Noting the close-knit community at the school, Phua said the café will complement the newly created social space in Kroon Hall.
“Providing this service, it makes the space more comfortable,” Phua said. “Instead of saying, ‘Let’s discuss this downtown,’ [FES students] can say ‘Let’s go to Kroon.’ ”
BYO, which stands for “Bring Your Own,” will encourage patrons to adopt sustainable lifestyles, Phua said. Because the café will not distribute mugs or utensils, customers will either have to bring their own or borrow them from Kroon’s nearby public-use kitchen, also located on the third floor of the building.
Faculty and administrators — including FES Dean Peter Crane and Maureen Burke, a joint professor at FES and SOM, who supervised the project — have been instrumental in helping the initative become a reality, Phua said. She added that Gordon Geballe, associate dean for student and alumni affairs, put $200 toward start-up costs for an April trial run.
Different student groups at FES can staff the café each week, she said. If they choose to bake food to sell in a given week, instead of purchasing it from Blue State, the week’s profits will then be donated to a cause of the group’s choosing. Possible causes currently include relief efforts in Haiti and “Kroon Girl” — a proposed statue outside Kroon Hall to complement “Sage Boy,” a statue of a woodsman outside of Sage Hall that serves as an unofficial mascot for the forestry school, Phua said.
Phua said she is still unsure how the profits from the sale of Blue State Coffee’s beverages and snack foods will be used, but she added that she expects any profit margins will be very small. The decision on the use of the profits will be made later with the help of administrators. But she said one potential use of the profits is to support FES student scholarships and conference travel.
“We didn’t start this café because of the financial crisis,” Phua said. “But now that we’re in a situation where a lot of funding has been slashed, we can step up and help out.”
After conducting a trial run of the café in April 2009, in which the café’s operators provided the food and drinks themselves, the operators received overwhelmingly positive feedback from FES students, Phua said.
Later, she and the six other students in charge of the café sent out requests for proposals from New Haven coffee shops. The BYO team received four proposals and voted based on cost and environmental values. The team selected Blue State Coffee for its affordable proposal and sustainable practices. Among the four vendors in consideration was Yale Dining’s catering services, whose proposal was less cost-competitive than that of Blue State Coffee, Phua said.
Bob Sullivan, director of operations for catering at Yale Dining, said he was notified in December that Yale Dining did not win the bid, but he said he did not know the reason why. Because BYO Cafe would be making orders regularly, Sullivan said he had offered a pricing discount to FES students. Phua said all the proposals appealed to sustainability concerns but Blue State had the cheapest model.
Blue State markets itself as a proponent of progressive causes, including sustainability and social entrepreneurship, said the coffee shop’s co-owner, Drew Ruben ’11. Ruben said working with BYO Café marks the first time Blue State has entered into a business relationship in which its products will be resold. Still, he added that Blue State and FES are suitable partners for each other.
“I think this is a tremendous opportunity within a lot of constraints to create a café that reflects our shared values,” Ruben said. “There’s a lot of overlap between what the forestry school stands for and what Blue State Coffee stands for.”
For example, Ruben noted that Blue Sate Coffee aims to be a zero-waste business, with all trash being “reusable, recyclable or biodegradable” — a goal he said aligns with the forestry school’s mission of environmental stewardship.
Students present at BYO’s opening Wednesday also said they were excited about the café’s opening. Kathayoon Khalil FES ’10 said BYO Café will help the community to become even closer by providing another incentive for students to stay in Kroon after classes end.
Marissa Matsler ’10 FES agreed, adding that she is pleased BYO selected a vendor whose values align with her own, as well as those of the school as a whole.
“I know I’m supporting a good cause,” Matsler said.
The “Loggerrhythms,” an a cappella group made up of FES students, added to Wednesday’s festivities with a performance of three songs, including “Single Use Cups,” a parody on Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.”.
BYO is open from 8:15 a.m. to 12 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Phua said the hours may be expanded if more students volunteer to staff the café.