The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Ronj’s New Grind

Tessa Garnett
Photo of the exterior of Le Ronj

Described as a “nocturnal pumpkin” in the Bates Alumnus Magazine, Winter 1998 edition, the Ronj is named for its bright orange walls. Located on 32 Frye Street, the two-story Victorian style Ross house features many colorful study and lounge rooms, each one uniquely furnished with wall art, student graffiti, and slouchy couches. The café serves standard drinks like vanilla and matcha lattes as well as some specialty beverages like the Maple Cinnamon Shaken Espresso and the “Cardi Bee,” named for its notes of cardamom and honey.

First opened in 1997, the Ronj faced setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the cafe has re-established itself as a hub for student life. The student-run cafe has seen rapid growth this school year with an expanding customer base beyond Frye Street residents.

Olivia Cuneo ‘24 one of the Ronj’s four student managers, described the cafe’s development in the past few years. She recounted that during COVID-19, the Ronj could not serve drinks besides iced chais or tea. “The Ronj wasn’t very popular, it was more a study space than it was a cafe and there were limited hours. I think there were just evening hours,” Cuneo said. “It was mostly populated by people who lived on Frye Street,” she explained.

This year, the café’s hours expanded from four to nine hours on weekdays, and up to 12 on Sundays. This was made possible by the increase in customers and staff expansion. What used to be a late night study space for Frye Street residents, has morphed into a popular spot for all students and faculty to grab a cup of coffee and relax.

“It’s a reliable cozy atmosphere,” stated Mia Jaenike ‘26 who is a frequent Ronj customer. “I love the Ronj. It provides me with my morning cup of happiness,” added Jaenike’s roommate Elsie Hall ‘26, another loyal Ronj patron.

Cuneo described her excitement in seeing the cafe packed at 9:30 am. “I was like wow, this is what I envisioned when I first started working here.” She spoke about her appreciation of the Ronj’s accessibility and the inclusive community it invites.

Sophie Man-Hudspith ‘26 elaborated on her community-oriented experience working as a Ronj barista: “Your job is to kind of socialize. Even though you’re making drinks for people you’re also talking to them. I’ve had many random conversations with people I don’t know.”

The student-run aspect of the Ronj enhances community. Man-Hudspith described her working experience as “more collaborative” than a faculty-led club. “I feel like your opinion gets so much more input because it’s all student run and we’re all peers.”

In addition to cultivating community and collaboration, Cuneo speaks to the recent technical improvements the Ronj’s staff has implemented. “Since I’ve been there, I’ve transitioned from buying syrups to making our own syrups and making sure that there’s a more standardized approach to making coffee. We have a menu and we stick to the menu,” Cuneo stated.

By streamlining and standardizing the coffee making process, the Ronj guarantees consistent product quality and customer experience. Cuneo stressed the importance of product uniformity and a basic menu. As a result, managers and students alike are treating the Ronj like a traditional coffee shop.

To Cuneo, the Ronj allows her a creative outlet. “I love the actual application of making coffee,” she said, describing the process of pulling a faster or slower espresso shot. “I also just really like making people happy with coffee. I know that coffee can be such a special part of someone’s routine and I really like that we’re able to serve the drinks at a pretty low price in comparison to other cafes,” she continued.

Ronj works to charge customers the minimum amount to keep expanded hours, while also maintaining quality. As a student-run café, emphasis is placed on bringing people in and providing them with an enjoyable experience. Students are mainly paying for the expansion of hours.

Looking to the future, Cuneo hopes to expand from beverages to food as well. Man-Hudspith also hopes to host more open mic nights, further embedding the Ronj within student life.

“I’ve worked as a barista for a couple of years now and every single cup of coffee I give out feels like a piece of art.” said Cuneo. “[Coffee] is such a great part of my routine, so I love to share that with people,” Cuneo concluded.

Though the Ronj is still evolving, its recent success and community-inducing role in Bates’ student life is undeniable.

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About the Contributor
Zoe Schaedle, Managing News Editor
Zoe is a Sophomore from Philadelphia, PA. She is currently undecided, but is leaning towards a double major in History and Classical and Medieval Studies. In her free time, Zoe enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, volunteering, going to the beach, cooking, or playing/watching sports.    Previously, Zoe served as a staff writer for The Student as a first year. She is also on the Bates Women’s Lacrosse team, and is an active mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Maine.

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