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Chem café brings aroma of coffee,
baked goods to chemistry building
March 1, 1999

Aletha Holmes springs from the cash register to the espresso machine, back to the register to help a second customer, then begins working on a cafe mocha. Pieces of blonde hair begin to trail across her forehead as the line at Chem Café continues to build.

"It's always really busy during class breaks," says Holmes, a double major in psychology and English who has been working for UConn Dining Services for two semesters.

Two weeks ago, Holmes began working at Chem Café, a coffee shop that opened February 10 in UConn's new chemistry building.

The drifting aroma of french vanilla, hazelnut or latte; a hint of Red Zinger, Apple & Cinnamon or Raspberry Royale tea; and, if you close your eyes, a whiff of coffee cake, the real stuff, covered with a thick layer of crumbs - all tempt faculty, staff and students to linger in the building's brightly lit atrium, a relaxing area with benches, an informational kiosk, and hallways that lead to the building's research, teaching and administrative wings.

The latest in a series of coffee shops operated by Dining Services staff, the Chem Café is open from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and offers faculty, staff and students who work or study in the building a haven from the wind, rain or, more recently, biting cold.

Besides flavored coffees, cappuccino, caffe latte and teas, the Café offers a variety of fresh bagels, muffins, and coffee cake, as well as an assortment of sandwiches for workers who don't have the time or inclination to make a noon run to a local restaurant.

"It's a nice set-up," says Paul Paquette, who manages cash operations for Dining Services. "We were brought into the discussions early enough in the planning (for the new building) that we were able to install the connections and design the Caféthe way we wanted it. There's great traffic there, right outside the lecture halls, and the atrium is a really nice spot."

Small coffee shops operated by Dining Services staff are springing up all over campus. There are now locations in the Homer Babbidge Library (Bookworms), in the Student Union (the Union Café), near the lecture hall in the Edward V. Gant Science Complex, and in the Longley Building on the Depot Campus. Paquette says there are plans to install another in the new School of Business Administration, which will be located on Dow Field, across Hillside Road from the Harry A.Gampel Pavilion, and probably one also in the Wilbur Cross Building, when renovations begin there. In addition, the new physics/biology building, scheduled for completion in about a year, will house a cafe, possibly at the site of the shop now in the Gant Complex.

Richard Veilleux