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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

Wilson Cafe-The Past, Present, and Future


The grey metal gate closed over the kitchen, an open space where refrigerators and hot lamps once sat, and booths that are occupied by students trying to get some work done between classes. Silence fills the room with the occasional loud conversation in the corner. This isn’t what Wilson Cafe always looked like. 

Running between classes is second nature to Westfield State students. The hum of the halls creates a chaotic scene in passing time. When everything calms down and students reach their classes, a small crowd would stay in Wilson Cafe to enjoy a quick or long meal. Aaron Lessing, a commuting student at Westfield State and the Vice President of Student Life, would be among some of these students. Wilson Cafe provided an area to do homework or hang out with friends. Aaron would go to Wilson Cafe as much as possible and said that it was his go-to eatery as a first-year student. Though not everything is bad in Aaron’s eyes. “Personally, I don’t think it is a big inconvenience as Marketplace has really stepped up this year and improved dramatically. It is unfortunate when having many classes in Wilson you don’t have that quick option and instead would have to go to another building.”

Wilson Cafe was home to the mashed potato bowl, chicken wraps, and more fan favorites among the student body of Westfield State University. The usual scene in Wilson Cafe would be long lines, lots of students, and a general exciting buzz among the students waiting for a warm meal. Now the scene is dull, quiet, and could be considered depressing. What does the future hold for this once beloved cafe?

History of Wilson Hall 

Information found in the archives of Westfield State’s Ely Library

Wilson Hall, located on the Westfield State University campus, houses about 20 majors currently. As the biggest academic building on campus, many Westfield State students pass through the Wilson Hall hallways every day. Due to the nature of college and the high energy that goes along with the hard-working students, Wilson Hall provides resources for students when they are in between classes or need a place to study. Currently, you may find Wilson Hall less populated than in previous years due to decisions Westfield State has made in recent months. 

Looking back at where everything started, Wilson Hall was dedicated after Dr. Charles Branch Wilson in 1976. Wilson received his Doctorate in Science from Colby College and a Doctorate in Philosophy from John Hopkins. In 1896, Wilson came to Westfield State then known as Westfield Normal School. In 1897, he became Head of the Science Department. Wilson became an active member of society in Westfield along with his wife, Lilla Turner. 

When Wilson Hall opened in 1971, it was the home to 4 majors. The first floor was dedicated to the Psychology Department, the second was the Biology Department, the third was the Physical Science Department, and the fourth floor was the Mathematics Department. 

At this time, Wilson Cafe was not built. Instead, students were able to walk right under the second floor to access the Commuter lot that is still currently on the other side of Wilson Hall. credits: Library Archives

Sometime after Wilson Hall was dedicated, the addition of Wilson Cafe was added to the building. This cafe was open to all students and was unofficially known as the commuter cafe. Wilson Cafe allowed students to be able to grab food in between classes or just sit and do homework at the booths. Wilson Hall became a popular place to hang out and get some work done during a very busy semester. 

The adverse effects of Covid-19

In 2020, Wilson Cafe was closed down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though students were allowed back on campus in the Fall 2020 semester, Wilson Cafe remained closed. This closure bled into the Spring 2021 semester, due to the fact that only a limited amount of students were allowed on campus. 

When students came back for the Fall 2021 semester, they found that Wilson Cafe was not only open, but it had a new name, Twister Cafe. Within a few weeks, the newly named cafe closed due to the lack of popularity.

Westfield State administration and dining saw that Wilson Cafe had underperforming sales compared to other locations on campus like Marketplace or TJ’s Late Night Bistro. Along with low sales, staffing has also been an issue due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The administration believed that it made sense to close an underperforming location to utilize the staff in busier locations. 

Aaron agrees that Wilson Cafe closed for the best interest of the school. “Rather than that, I think closing Wilson was the best option for Dining Services when taking into consideration their staffing issues along with several other issues.”

Student Reactions

Aaron Lessing, like many before Covid, would go to Wilson Cafe as often as he could. The convenience of Wilson Cafe allowed him to go to the eatery as often as possible and even called it his go-to spot his freshman year. This is now not the case due to the closure.

Abigail Marshall, however, is very upset that the cafe is closed. She used to spend a lot of time in Wilson her freshman year with friends and did homework. Now she feels like she never goes into that building unless it is for class.

“I feel like we should be given another place to eat on campus. The lines at other restaurants on campus are so long and I feel like if Wilson was open, people would be more spread out.” Marshall stated

Even though a favorite cafe was closed, students can head over to the Marketplace to grab a fresh hot coffee or a quick snack in between the hustle and bustle of college life. 

The Future of Wilson Cafe

Recently, Westfield Dining created a poll on Instagram regarding what should go into the vacant space. Many students wanted a sushi place or another grab-and-go service. However, the idea of a Starbucks on campus won the overall vote.

Aaron Lessing confirms that the plan as of now is to open a Proudly Brewed, Starbucks cafe in the vacant space in Wilson. The hope is that with a popular brand like Starbucks, the cafe will get more traction and do better than what Wilson Cafe was doing at the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester. 

With the addition of Starbucks in Spring 2022, Wilson Cafe may very well be the most popular place on campus, beating out Dunkin’ Donuts. 

“This new location will have the drinks of Starbucks and use all Starbucks products. Their machines will take a few weeks to train staff on so next semester will be a slow opening of the location, adding more options as the semester goes on.” Lessing says

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