Weshop’s $200,000 renovation has received a mixed reaction from the Wesleyan campus, as students and Weshop employees absorb the changes in the store’s layout and selection of goods. Some have praise store’s transformation, while others point to longer lines and poor product placement.
“We’re getting positive feedback from students,” said Assistant Weshop Manager Debbie Young, adding that she has received compliments on increased room and less crowding within the store.
Weshop cashier Sharon Wade remains skeptical of the changes. A Wesleyan employee for 23 years, Wade questioned design choices throughout the store, including the decision to place Weshop’s bountiful supply of candy, a frequent target for shoplifters, out of sight of cashiers.
“The only way I know they ate it [stolen candy] is if they throw it up on me,” Wade said.
In its current incarnation, Weshop (renamed Weshop Essentials by new dining service Bon Appétit) continues to sell many of the same products it offered when owned by former dining service Aramark. Walking through the aisles, one finds the usual supermarket standards, such as pasta and cold cuts, pre-cooked options from brands like Stouffer’s and Ethnic Gourmet, and a variety of sodas and juices.
Among the additions to the store are fresh sushi, delivered daily, and a Brioni’s Single-Cup Coffee maker that produces specialty drinks such as “French vanilla mocha” and “Chaiccino” at the push of a button.
Conspicuous absences include cigarettes, which Ms. Young said were removed due to lack of space by the cash registers, and bulk containers of raw items such as rice and coffee beans. A lack of bulk items particularly stands out given the description of Weshop on Bon Appétit’s website, which advertises the store as offering “bulk food items such as nuts, grains, legumes, coffees, rice, flour and more.”
Wade seemed particularly taken aback by the lack of bulk products, given the amount she has seen students buy in years past.
“We sell tremendous bulk in here,” Wade said. “Come on, you [Bon Appétit] are a food service? What’s wrong with you?”
Bon Appétit’s Resident District Manager Delmar Crim reported positive student feedback to Weshop’s new sushi supply, and assured customers that they would soon have access to bulk items.
“It’s a process that is moving forward,” Crim said. “Gary [Krikscuin, Director of Weshop Essentials and Pi Café] has been pricing canisters [to house bulk items]. It’s a tight space overall.”
“[Bulk items] will be back,” Crim added.
Diego Glusberg ’11, a potential Weshop employee who is in a two-week
trial period before receiving a decision on permanent employment, has been pleasantly surprised by Weshop’s selection.
“Good. More than I expected,” Glusberg said.
Other issues have emerged from Weshop’s spatial re-organization, including the addition of a floor-to-ceiling rectangular divider near the middle of the store. The two cash registers have been moved along one side of this divider; while the aforementioned candy supply, refrigerators for drinks, a microwave for pre-cooked items, shelves for chips and other snack items occupy the other three sides.
Additionally, grocery aisles that last year ran vertically from the front to the back of the store now run horizontally from Weshop’s right wall to a center aisle, formed by the edges of display shelves and the divider.
Crim says these changes came from a combination of physical necessity and aesthetic choice.
“Most of [Weshop’s] infrastructure was owned by Aramark,” Crim said. “A lot of the components were taken out by Aramark. When you take everything out, all you have is a shell.”
“I think [it was re-designed] to freshen it up,” Crim added. “What was there [last year] was all on top of each other. It was a little run down.”
Bon Appetit hired Harold Williams, an independent contractor who has worked with the company on other projects, to re-plan Weshop’s lay-out. A new security system with an increased number of surveillance cameras was also installed. Whether this system will deter Weshop theft will remain to be seen. For now, theft has not been a noticeable issue.
“It’s only been a week. I haven’t heard anything yet,” said Director of Public Safety David Meyer.
If the new design has left the store with an updated look, it’s also led to logistical inconveniences for customers. Wade says she has seen students with microwavable items reaching over and around other patrons in line in order to heat their food. Picking out a drink from the refrigerators along the divider also becomes difficult, as a lengthy line of customers will block the doors.
“Have these people [Bon Appétit] ever shopped in a store?” Wade asked.
It has also been difficult for cashiers to communicate to customers waiting in line on one side of the divider that the line on the opposite side is shorter. Crim says that although such issues have not been brought to his attention by students, such occurrences are not surprising given the store’s layout.
“It makes sense as I look back on the footprint,” Crim said.
However, employees seem confident that this and other issues will be resolved as customers become acquainted with the specifics of the
“It seems alright. Sometimes one line will get longer than the other. But it’s easily [remedied],” Glusberg said. “It’s something people will get used to.”
Donna, a cashier at Weshop who preferred to be identified by her first name, concurred.
“We have to give it a little chance to see how it works,” Donna said.
Any change at a store that sells such essential items, however, is bound to elicit some strong reactions.
“I’m so overwhelmed by all of the changes!” said Lizzy Susca ’09, holding a box of macaroni and cheese, eyes scanning the re-arranged shelves. “It’s terrible. I just want to buy dinner!”