Providing variety and convenience to complement the traditional dining hall experience, SUNY Oswego’s retail dining options have returned to operation throughout campus, with new offerings adding to a rich menu.

One notable new feature for coffee fans is Rich Hall’s Wall Street Market now serves Starbucks products, joining Penfield Library’s Lake Effect Café in offering this in-demand brand. These cafés offer the same Starbucks beverages and on-the-go convenience options such as salads, sandwiches, fruit cups, pastries and snack bars.

Over in the Shineman Center, the Fusion Café has returned to full power with a bagel bar, where students can get anything on a bagel, but also can grab pre-packaged items. Each bagel sandwich is named after men and women in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields, and Fusion Café recently added five new sandwiches to their menu.

Marano Campus Center’s five options throughout the building include a new name for an old favorite. Refresh, formally known as FANS, offers all-natural smoothies as well as small snacks and pastries; also including new smoothie recipes to their menu. 

The other four locations near the arena and convocation hall and arena have returned to full menus. In addition to the lunch availability, beginning at the end of September, Cutting Board downstairs in the food court will offer pizza and wings as a dinner option from 6 to 9 p.m.

During the day, Cutting Board offers a lunch menu of pizza and ready-to-make sandwiches and wraps, while Palates has daily cooked meal options. Also in the downstairs food court, the Laker Express Market offers a create your own salad option as well as soup-of-the-day options. These dining options are only open during the early afternoon. 

One floor up in Marano, Crossroads offers hot and ready-to-go food, such as burgers, chicken patties, chicken tenders and hot breakfast options.

Returning to service

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, Ahlearie Busbee, the Auxiliary Services assistant retail store manager, said it curtailed these operations and constant adjustments meant hours and offerings are just returning to something resembling normal this fall.  

“For our retail operations, we ended up closing everything that was not essential,” she said. “Within less than a week we had to move everything completely out of the cafés.”

In the fall 2020, the retail options were able to open some of their locations with reduced hours; however, they had to close all operations except Lake Effect Café and Crossroads when the campus-wide pause was in effect and continued that way until the end of the Spring semester.   

Each location has a different set of managers but offers plentiful student employment, including some who make the rounds of working at each location. During the pandemic, however, an avenue that employs more than 100 students faced logistical challenges, and ultimately put this option on hold temporarily.

Student employment opportunities

For fall 2021, Busbee and the Auxiliary Services team were happy to welcome back student employees throughout its retail operations.

“Some locations offer more student employees than others, such as Wall Street only having six or seven, compared to Fusion having 15 to 20 students,” Busbee said.

Student employees earn and learn in these roles, and are encouraged to engage in other activities on campus but focus on academics too. 

“Our goal is to allow our student employees to have a well-rounded college experience, meaning we try our best to be as flexible as we can with their schedule while still assisting them with time management and accountability,” Busbee said.

As well as offering student employment, the retail dining options offer sustainable and nutritional, allergen friendly options.

Busbee said the retail dining managers collaborate with Kathryn Szklany, Auxiliary Services’ registered dietitian, to provide options for those students who have allergies to certain food. They put nutritional labels on the packaged items themselves but also are working to put all nutritional information online by the spring 2022 semester.

“With the campus fully opening, we were able to continue our partnership with Sustainability to use our Perk Up, 25 cents off on a reusable cup,” Busbee said. In addition, most of the plastic items Auxiliary Services uses on campus are recyclable.

While the retail cafés are not covered under the meal plan for students, they do accept Laker Dining Dollars, credit and debit cards, Apple Pay, cash or checks.

Auxiliary Services supports sustainability in another way as well: After the day is done, the cafés donate leftover nonperishable to Students Helping Oz Peers, SHOP, the pantry on campus to feed students who potentially have no other way of obtaining food at school, whether on or off campus. Recognizing additional need in the community, Auxiliary Services works with the local Salvation Army of Oswego to distribute additional food donations.

For more information regarding these dining options, to see the weekly hours or to find out about employment opportunities, visit the Auxiliary Services website.

-- Written by Cassandra Abel of the Class of 2021