The return of the king: The j café is finally back in business

After nearly two months of waiting due to COVID-19 preparations, dozens of journalism students welcomed back their beloved café.

With COVID-19, the j café and Campus Dining Services faced a huge challenge. And instead of having a universal plan across all their installations, dining services decided to split the responsibility between their managers, and divide into groups, giving managers more freedom when it came to when and how to operate their respective establishments. Assistant managers Sean Brown and Jordan Bonnot currently manage the cafe group, which includes the j café.

“We staggered j café just because we didn’t know exactly what was going to happen just with COVID. Sean staggered his cafes, whereas with Wheatstone Bistro and Catalyst Café just came out of the gates," Bonnot said. "I think that I was looking more at the bottom line as far as money goes.”

While it was difficult to open the other cafes on campus without knowing what the situation would look like during the pandemic, Bonnot said staggering openings helped.

But a lot of that uncertainty washed away once the café reopened, mainly thanks to its reputation. Through social media, the j cafe has gathered a cult following of journalism students, and many of them showed up for the re-opening on Oct.12.

"It’s not one of our busier units, I will say that, but it’s definitely got a following … I wasn’t very involved in j café before, but now that I am, I’m very proud that it’s open. I’m very proud of our staff and of what Sean Brown has done here,” Bonnot said.

Even veteran staff looked forward to the reopening. Senior Samantha Norman has worked at the j café since her sophomore year and sees the café as an essential part of her experience at MU. And its return has brought a sense of normalcy to her life during the pandemic.

“The opening was very hyped, which I felt like was very appropriate because I don't know if I'm biased, I love working at the j café,” Norman said. “Honestly, it really hasn’t been super different, the biggest thing, obviously, is the masks, but also the giant plexiglass window. But other than that, it really hasn't been super different.”

Senior Bennett Durando, another veteran employee, said what really makes the j café stand out from other establishments on campus is its environment

“In the other cafes it’s not as vibrant, it’s nice, it’s noisy, students come here to study, it’s all kind of nearby,” Durando said. “This is such a popular place for people to work on stuff between classes, just this space and RJI [Reynolds Journalism Institute] being such a beautiful building.”

Edited by Lucy Caile|lcaile@themaneater.com

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