Puttin’ On the Wit’s – Campus Cafe Gets New Look

Dan Roche

The Wit’s End, every one’s favorite student-run coffeehouse here at UMass Boston, is undergoing something of a complete rejuvenation. Located on the third floor of Wheatley Hall, the Wit’s End Café had its storied beginnings as a campus bar up until the mid-80’s (the University of Massachusetts now complies with the Federal Safe and Drug-Free Schools Act of 1994). Since then it has evolved into what it is today a sunlit gathering spot for both knowledge seeking academics and the caffeinated beverages that love them. In the past few months it has undergone perhaps the greatest non-alcohol related upheaval in its existence. The previously stark décor that marked the place in the past has softened into a considerably warmer environment. Comfortable, plush IKEA couches have replaced hard high-backed chairs, and warm burnt orange tones accentuate the incoming sunlight.

This successful facelift is only cosmetic. The current staff share an ambition for it to become, in not too short a time, a fully self-sustaining- even money making- venture. Any profits will go back to the continued support of Student Life and the café itself. This was initiated by the effort of Linda Smith-Mooney of Student Life. The labor on her part was, sadly, almost literally backbreaking; she hurt herself while helping in the renovation of the space over the winter break, but we can expect her back before long. Everyone at the Wit’s End wishes her a speedy and full recovery. The student managers are Latisha Taylor, Kim Carroll, and Mike McCusker, who is the café’s general manager. In addition there are the counter workers and other volunteers, and the customers who help to keep the place boisterous and full of activity. The kitchen has been souped-up as well, and there has been the almost total redecoration, which has received much positive feedback.

More importantly, it is the effort that the management staff has made toward establishing the cafe as a viable economic entity in its own right. To this end, with the help of Kelly Meehan in gaining the financial support of Student Life and the UMass Student Senate, the Wit’s End has hired analyst Stuart Thompson as a consultant. With luck and more hard work, the outcome of the project should be a solvent entity that can, for the investment, become a student-operated enterprise that steadily contributes to the campus while maintaining and improving itself.

Another change, not as well-met, were the recent price increases. The last hike had come ten years earlier, half the café’s lifetime ago. It is hoped that a quality product- they have recently begun offering fair-trade coffee, and the menu has expanded exponentially- will dull the sting of slightly higher prices.

The goal is a vibrant, neighborhood-style gathering spot that can take care of itself in the books. A place where you can nap or read Schopenhauer on the couches for a few hours. So there is a commotion coming from the third floor of Wheatley, but of a good sort. To this end, there will also now be free live Jazz music on Thursdays from 12:30 to 1:30 PM featuring Tuffus Zimbabwe. After the Spring Break there will be formal student art displays- student art already lines the walls at the Wit’s, and as I sat down to interview the genial Mr. McCusker, someone was centering a painting on the wall. As these projects come to fruition, others- like, perhaps, a student-operated catering service- sprang to his mind. As Spring approaches, a bustle of energy surrounds the place, and the mission is to get the student body gassed up so that it can study harder. All while making sense to the bottom lines of both the customer and the school. Winners all around.