Coming Home To Cafeteria

Tanner Townsend and Victor Lucio, the new owners of Main Street coffee haunt Cafeteria, aim to create more of an off-campus hub for the student population.

“We feel that the students at SUNY New Paltz are an integral key to the success of Cafeteria and have plans to become much more involved with campus life,” Townsend said.

Townsend and Lucio, who met through Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., said they want students to see the space as an environment for productivity.

The venue participated in the New Student Fair held on Aug. 23 to familiarize New Paltz students. Lucio said they will start reaching out to student organizations on campus and hope to volunteer some space as a meeting location for clubs. They also plan to offer reserved space to art students to display their work.

Since taking over on July 1, Townsend and Lucio said they have implemented major changes to the cafe including rearranging the layout of the shop by remodeling the bathrooms, moving the counter and installing additional lighting. The new owners have also revamped the coffee, choosing to use Certified Fair Trade Organic beans.

The partners said they are also working on getting a beer and wine license so that they can eventually offer their customers three to four local craft beers and wines by the glass.

SUNY New Paltz graduate Ariana McGuire said New Paltz is defined by its collection of small businesses.

“I also like that they’re planning on selling local beer and organic beans for their coffee,” McGuire said.  “When I think of New Paltz, I think local, not big industries. So it’s good that more businesses are supporting other local businesses.”

Once they finish the redesign, Townsend and Lucio said they want to focus on bringing more live music to the cafe.

Tyler Beatrice, owner of Root Note music shop, which operates from within Cafeteria, also books shows. He opened his business in October 2011 after former owner Jim Svetz offered him space at the venue.

“Though the idea was a bit unconventional, I saw it as an opportunity to blend two things that many New Paltzers love: coffee and music,” Beatrice said. “Technically speaking, Root Note and Cafeteria are separate businesses under one roof, but what we do works in a symbiotic way.”

Beatrice said he hopes to focus on booking more shows at Cafeteria to foster the New Paltz music community and has incorporated a new section into his website that will highlight local bands. He said viewers can find a biography and links to the artists’ music in this section.

Third-year psychology major Sharon Hillman said she wants to see a more diverse group of musicians perform at the venue.

“I’m excited to hear that cafeteria would like to branch out in terms of musical acts, as the number of venues in the area is somewhat lacking,” Hillman said. “It would be cool to bring artists from outside of New Paltz to Cafeteria in order to expand its audience as well as keeping the music scene fresh and stimulating.”

Townsend and Lucio said they want to extend the collaborative atmosphere to all parts of their cafe. They said they plan to incorporate a forum where customers can share their opinions with management.

“We personally know how difficult it can be to find the time while running a business — or several — to reach out and connect to a place like SUNY New Paltz, but we intend to make it a priority for Cafeteria as we continue to grow in the future,” Townsend said. “We would love to hear suggestions and comments from the students at SUNY New Paltz as to how we can work  with them to make Cafeteria better.”