Camino shifts campus coffee landscape

Camino+shifts+campus+coffee+landscape

Maddie Sa

Campus Grounds, located in Taylor Residence Hall, opened for the semester on Thursday, Sept. 10 and will be providing Wake Forest students and staff with brand new Bobby Boy Bakeshop pastries this fall. This year, however, it will face some fresh competition from a familiar face on campus as well. 

Its previous inventory came from local Camino Bakery, which is now located just a few yards away at the Z. Smith Reynolds Library. This sudden competition with its former main supplier raised concerns for the student-run coffee shop as they adjusted to reopen business for the beginning of the fall semester. In addition to preparing for proper sanitation within the shop and following COVID-19 protocols, Campus Grounds also experienced challenges in getting vendors approved by the university.

This, unfortunately, was the source of Campus Grounds’ unusual delayed opening this semester.  

“We were waiting to operate not only for students who are consumers, but also staff,” said senior and general manager Heather McCauley.

The ZSR Library is a hub for student activity, making Camino Bakery’s new location, formerly occupied by Starbucks, an ideal location for constant business.

According to Vice President of Hospitality & Auxiliary Services John Wise, the decision to introduce Camino Bakery was based on discussions with Starbucks over the last two years and about the direction the school sought to move in. 

“It really was a decision that said our partnership with Starbucks in the library had run its course,” Wise said. “We were looking for what options presented themselves for us to have a coffee shop and continue to offer coffee in the library, something other than Starbucks. Camino is a very well respected, local business, and we felt leveraging a partnership, similar to what we have with Village Juice, was an appropriate direction to go for the coffee house in the library.”

The resources and products available to students in the library location are supplied by Camino Bakery’s local bake shop. 

“We wanted to operate in the same environment we were operating Starbucks – part of the meal plan, same staff that worked there before …” Wise said. He adds that although Starbucks left the library last year, these employees have been able to continue working at Camino Bakery. 

 McCauley said that the coffee shops in the ZSR Library have consistently had exponentially better business than Campus Grounds. Its location in Taylor brought concerns to the business in past years because the building was reserved for upperclassmen living. Fortunately, Taylor, and other residence halls on the Upper Quad, are now housing freshmen, which McCauley believes is one of Campus Grounds’ biggest marketing tactics. She is happy new students can easily experience what Campus Grounds has to offer by simply making a trip downstairs. 

“Always get the freshmen in,” McCauley said. “We have many more freshmen which is really exciting. [Campus Grounds then becomes] something they can start to look forward to for the next four years.” 

In addition to location, another challenge Campus Grounds has encountered is the difference in payment methods. Because Campus Grounds is separately owned and not under the Aramark contract  that covers Wake Forest’s dining plan, the student-run coffee shop cannot accept Food Dollars. They do, however, take Deacon Dollars, cash or credit cards. 

The student-run Campus Grounds coffee shop reopened to steep new challenges, including competition from Camino Bakery and complications from the COVID-19 pandemic (Emily Beauchamp/Old Gold & Black)

“We’ve always had just less business than [the ZSR coffee shop] just because of their ability to take Food Dollars,” McCauley said. Despite this slight setback, “there’s definitely a strong loyal group of students who come to Campus Grounds and that we always welcome.”

Wake Forest Deacon Dining and Camino Bakery did not respond to interview requests in time for this publication. 

Although Campus Grounds operates separately from the dining program, Wise believes this presents a unique draw to the coffee shop. Through a marketing perspective, Campus Grounds’ ability to leverage themselves as a student run entrepreneurial business is a strong suit. 

“The desire to keep Campus Grounds as a student run enterprise is really at the core of what we all want campus grounds to be,” Wise said. “I think Campus Grounds has a very unique place on campus and I think it has a unique following. It’s an important part of the fabric of the campus.”

Campus Grounds’ new walk-up window service creates a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. McCauley believes it is the small, daily interactions between students and staff that truly build rapport and the shop fosters this experience.

“We are definitely like a little family,” McCauley adds. She encourages students to take a brief study break by coming to the window and indulging in a warm coffee and pastry.

 It is something to look forward to, “especially when you’re on Zoom all day in your dorm, it’s nice for a little bit of social interaction during the day.”

In terms of staffing, Campus Grounds has retained all of its employees. The caveat is that, with added COVID-19 protocols in place, Campus Grounds has had to cut working hours and has not hired any new students this fall semester. As of now, there are approximately 15 students working as part of Wake Forest’s Work-Study employment. To be eligible, one must demonstrate financial need. The student shop is hoping to hire more students in the spring if things are normalized. 

Last year, Camino Bakery’s treats were popular items at Campus Grounds, but despite the quick change in vendors, McCauley has high hopes for what Bobby Boy Bakeshop will bring to Campus Grounds. 

Bobby Boy Bakeshop was opened in Winston-Salem by a married couple experienced in the culinary arts. The family and community-oriented coffee shop  and bakery caught McCauley’s eye as a vendor to potentially source Campus Grounds for this upcoming year, and she looks forward to giving the experience to students and staff on campus. 

According to McCauley, Bobby Boy Bakeshop will be delivering fresh pastries daily (or multiple times a day depending on customer demand) to Campus Grounds starting this week for the fall semester. Items include croissants (chocolate and ham & cheese), cookies, cinnamon rolls and a variety of breads. She emphasizes the importance Campus Grounds places on freshness and quality of food.