It's out with the old and in with the new inside the Brochstein Pavilion. The location's previous beverage purveyor, Dirk's Coffee, closed up shop and as of July 12 made way for Salento, Brochstein Pavilion's new coffee and wine service provider. Bringing a slew of new drink offerings to the counter, the combination cafe and wine lounge took root on campus as an establishment already familiar to much of the Rice community through its location in the Rice Village. "Salento was recommended and endorsed by a number of people at Rice, so this was something that had been suggested that we go and check out," Associate Vice President for Housing and Dining Mark Ditman said. "We actually went and visited and found that the quality of the products was high, but we also felt like their style of service was very welcoming and pleasant and professional."
One of the key qualities Salento brought to the table was the ability to provide wine service at a quality level, allowing the location to function uniquely on campus as more than just a coffee shop.
"Over the last two years we learned that referring to it as a coffee house is not accurate; it's more of a bistro, so it's a bit of a different market segment than we thought it would be initially," Ditman said.
Jackie Campbell, president of Salento Coffee Inc., said that when the university approached Salento last November, they were already seeking a sit-down, table service environment with a wider appeal.
"What the university wanted was this place running like a bistro, with more food and targeting everybody, but especially faculty and visitors," Campbell said.
A regular of the Pavilion both before and after the switch, Tracy Huffor commented on the changes she has observed.
"Before it had sort of an organic, collegiate, down-home feel. This is more slick," Huffor said. "I kind of like the organic side, the student side."
At the same time, though, Brochstein Pavilion holds an artistic draw for Huffor.
"My design snob side has seen this in so many architecture magazines that I love to be a part of this," Huffor said. "And I definitely want to be outdoors; that's the big pull."
Still, Huffor, who is not a part of the Rice community but lives in the neighborhood, said she has yet to venture over to Coffeehouse, Rice's student-run coffee shop.
"They keep telling me I need to get over there because it's cheaper," Huffor said.
Salento now operates only about 100 meters from Coffeehouse's location in the Rice Memorial Center, but General Manager Chase LeCroy isn't worried about losing business to the new competition.
"Coffeehouse's business has grown rapidly over the past few years, despite the appearance of a competitor in the Pavilion," LeCroy, a Jones College senior, said. "It is still too early to tell if Salento's new contract at [Brochstein] Pavilion has affected Coffeehouse economically."
Coffeehouse is currently in talks with the administration regarding options for expansion.