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The evolution of a Bethel staple: From Bubbert’s to the 1887 Cafe
The name of this campus cornerstone may be new, but the space has always had a prominent presence in North Newton.
In July, the 1887 Cafe opened in the space formerly known as Mojo’s in the Schultz Student Center. The cafe offers various Starbucks drinks and has both morning and evening hours.
And while it is currently the 1887 Cafe, the space in which the cafe exists has gone through numerous iterations. Since Schultz Student Center was finished in 1978, the space now called the 1887 Cafe has been open to students.
Unfortunately, details about the different businesses occupying what is now known as the 1887 Cafe were not recorded in detail when changes were made. However, in talking to John Thiesen and Shirley Dietzel, the evolution of the space was able to be pieced together.
Originally known as Bubbert’s, the space served as a snack bar for students. It offered various items that may be found at a fast food restaurant, such as burgers, fries, and mozzarella sticks. In 1988-1989, Bubbert’s underwent major renovations. However, the menu didn’t change much.
For the next decade or so, Bubbert’s existed in the same form, run by Marriott Food Services. Sometime in the 2000s, after Marriott left Bethel and was replaced by Food Guys Food Service, Bubbert’s closed. The space known as Bubbert’s was split in half, becoming half storage and half miscellaneous space for student use.
In 2010, Patty Meier revived the concept, opening Mojo’s, which moved away from the Bubbert’s role of serving snacks and fast food. While offering fresh options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Mojo’s also served specialty coffee.
A notable difference between Mojo’s and Bubbert’s was its clientele and apparent purpose. Bubbert’s was open until approximately midnight every night and was a popular place for Bethel students’ late-night hang-outs. Conversely, although Mojo’s was also popular with Bethel students, it attracted large numbers of off-campus customers. Additionally, Mojo’s closed around 8 p.m. making it unconducive to many college students’ late-night studying.
The Mojo’s time at Bethel came to an end in 2022, when Meier sold the business to Reverie Coffee Roasters out of Wichita. From 2022 to 2023, Reverie at Mojo’s made small changes to the Mojo’s model, but kept the majority of the business the same. In 2023, Reverie discontinued its services at the location.
After looking at several proposed new residents of the space, Bethel ultimately decided to open a coffee shop run by Aladdin Campus Dining, the on-campus food service provider. Open every morning and evening Tuesday through Saturday, the 1887 Cafe enjoys a client base of both Bethel students and community members.
For every generation of Bethel students, the space now known as the 1887 Cafe has looked different. Many alumni have fond memories of time spent in former iterations of the area in the student center. For Suzanne Marie Hitt, class of 1994, Bubbert’s was a place for socializing.
Specifically, she recalled meeting up with a group she traveled with during interterm in Bubbert’s, sharing, “[we] got together at Bubbert’s the following semester to play 10-point Pitch. It was so much fun.”
Tonya Wenger, another 1994 graduate of Bethel, had a similar view of the space as primarily used for hanging out with friends and socializing. Sometimes, it seemed, Bubbert’s was too easy to hang out in. Wenger said, “My most vivid memory there is losing track of time hanging out with friends during the intermission of a show I was in at Krehbiel Auditorium and nearly missing my entrance.”
“My most vivid memory there is losing track of time hanging out with friends during the intermission of a show I was in at Krehbiel Auditorium and nearly missing my entrance.”
A contentious topic surrounding the 1887 Cafe has been the removal of the “Bubbert’s” sign that had been on the wall for years. Both Hitt and Wenger expressed similar feelings toward the sign’s removal: “Having a piece of my time at Bethel still visible brought warm feelings and good memories. I … am sad to see it go,” Wenger stated. But, she continued, “I recognize change is inevitable.”