By Indira Rahman, Contributing Writer ||
Ben’s Underground, the 30 year-old student-run eatery on campus, reopened last Friday, September 12, after undergoing a significant remodel over the Summer.
The renovation process, costing about $50,000, began around a week after Commencement for the Class of 2014 and was prompted by Kelly Kennedy, director of College Programs, and Meaghan M. Kauffman, office coordinator at the Office of College Programs.
The bar, platforms, floor, and old wall mirrors were completely removed and aging furniture and kitchen equipment were removed in order to get a fresh start on refurbishing the space.
Students were heavily involved in the process of renovation. The College’s administration consulted the executive board of Ben’s Underground, class presidents, and student leaders involved in Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC), Panhellenic Council, and Diplomatic Congress about what students would prefer to see in the space. Administrators sought student input on everything from interior decoration to the placement of furniture.
Additions include a new sitting area populated by square arrangements of soft-cushion and leather sofas and wood tables; an 80-inch LCD television with Internet connectivity and a Blu-ray player; numerous lacquered high-top and low-top tables; and new booths, with more arriving. Upgrades include bigger and brighter overhead lights, walls coated with fresh paint, and a refurbished pool tabletop.
The biggest upgrade, however, was the kitchen.
The refurbished kitchen features a polished wooden counter with a marble top, stainless steel working spaces, and a digital menu screen. New kitchen appliances include an oven, a sink, a dishwasher, a soda gun, a fryer, and a warmer.
Lydia Olson ’15, facilities manager at Ben’s Underground, has been involved with the student-run eatery since the Spring of her first year on campus.
“The brand new kitchen equipment is simply making everyone on the staff more excited to come in and use the new stuff,” she said. “It’s great.”
Although Ben’s Underground is still in transition,0 with new equipment at the staff’s disposal, the executive board is already thinking of expanding food offerings to include pizza and hot sandwiches. The executive board plans to treat F&M alumni with a grand re-opening during Alumni Weekend. Marketing campaigns and concert nights are also in the works.
Recently, Ben’s Underground, newly spacious and well-lit, attracted a full house when it hosted Spotlight, a Summer to Fummer event that put the collapsible stages at the back of Ben’s to use. The renovations were met with positive responses from both first-year and returning students.
“Everyone who knew Ben’s before loves the renovations,” Olson said. “I think the new [first-years] got a good taste of the new and improved Ben’s, so we’re hoping to draw in bigger crowds this year and in the future.”
Ben’s Underground gets its name from F&M’s founder, Ben Franklin, and its location in the basement of the Marketplace Dining Hall. Established in 1984 as a social space by students for students, Ben’s continues to provide light-hearted, late-night entertainment and refreshments to the F&M community. For more information on the hours of operation, visit http://www.fandm.edu/ocp/ben-s-underground.
First-year Indira Rahman is a contributing writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.