KAF remembered for coffee, camaraderie
News that King Arthur Flour’s Baker-Berry Library location has closed permanently, albeit due to reasons unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic, has hit hard for students and alumni alike. Members of the Dartmouth community, spread across the world during the remote term, have realized that they’ve waited in the famously-long KAF line for the last time.
Since its opening at Dartmouth in 2011, KAF was both a beloved cafe and common social hub on campus, said Samantha Stern ’19, who frequented the cafe throughout her time at Dartmouth.
“When I think about KAF, I guess just as ‘flair’ or ‘prof’ or ‘blitz’ is a key part of the Dartmouth lexicon, I think KAF is definitely an important word in the Dartmouth dictionary,” she said.
Stern added that KAF contributed to her sense of place at the College.
“We often talk about the importance of place when discussing Dartmouth, and I think most often alums or students are referring to the wilderness and the campus community, but KAF also provided a unique and a special sense of place,” she said.
For many students, KAF’s sandwiches, pastries and beverages were a highlight of Dartmouth’s on-campus food offerings. Matt Garten ’12 said that for him, KAF was “a pretty big staple — almost a daily trip at some points.”
Katie Dishner ’19 said that the closure is “a loss” to the library space.
“There [are] other options to get food, but when you’re looking for something a little higher quality and want something different than the general campus offerings, KAF was a really great option.”
During its time at Dartmouth, KAF director John Tunnicliffe said, the company “loved having a presence on campus.”
“We really valued the relationships that we had with students, with faculty and with the staff at the College,” he said. “Over the years, I felt like we really developed a nice rapport and also gave us visibility for our campus across the river [in Norwich, Vermont] as well, where we would also see a lot of students and faculty come over and visit.”
That said, Tunnicliffe added that closing the cafe was “the right decision at this time” and that KAF’s return to campus is “unlikely.”
He said that KAF has decided to focus its resources on the Norwich location, which has “seen traffic increase year after year,” rather than maintaining the library location on the side, which he said required a large amount of “logistics and support.”
Though Dartmouth students will still be able to visit “big KAF” in Norwich, Skylar Miklus ’22, who has worked at KAF since their freshman winter, noted that they will miss the positive atmosphere that the cafe brought to the library.
“One of my favorite parts was that literally all my customers were just my friends,” Miklus said. “I'd just be there at the register and everyone would be chatting, happy to see me, and I would just be happy to see everyone. It was so, so fun to work and have all your customers be the students.”
Prior to its closing, KAF was the only food vendor on Dartmouth’s campus not run by Dartmouth Dining Services. DDS director Jon Plodzik wrote to The Dartmouth that DDS “intends to expand the use of King Arthur products in our existing dining operations,” but declined to provide further comment.
Tunnicliffe said that any notions that KAF was pushed out by DDS are “absolutely not the case.”
“This was our decision,” he said. “We could have continued at the location without any issues and would have been welcomed to continue at the location.”
Plodzik wrote that DDS “expect[s] to have either an outside or internal operator in that space” once it returns to full operations.
Students and alumni expressed hope that a local food vendor might fill the space.
Leeza Petrov ’22 said that she is “very grateful for the food [DDS] provide[s] and the services they give to campus,” but hopes that the library space formerly occupied by KAF will be filled by a non-DDS operator so that students will be able to enjoy some variety in on-campus food options.
“We have very little variation as of now, especially with all the off-campus [food venues] closing,” she said, citing the recent closure of Morano Gelato. “There are plenty of local businesses that could use the boon of the College having a location.”
Juliana Ortego ’14 also said that when she was an undergraduate, students were proud of KAF because it was a local business.
“I think something that’s equally unique to Hanover or to the Upper Valley would be really nice,” she said.
For some, KAF’s closure has reminded students of what campus will be like when they return. Saige Gitlin ’22 said that she thinks campus will be “really different.”
“It’s weird to think that something that was such a central part of your social life is going to not be there,” she said.
However, Nick Mancini ’23 is optimistic about the operator that will fill the cafe space.
“KAF was great — they provided a lot of good, good things,” he said, “but whatever goes in there, everyone will be so excited because we’ll be back [on campus].”
He added that he looks forward to a new vendor on campus.
“We’re sad that KAF is gone, but it’ll be a new experience and I think that will generate some of the necessary excitement to create a new tradition,” Mancini said.