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Coffee House Blues: Ally Bruschi Meditates on Kenyon, post-Middle Ground

Walking past the illuminated windows of Wiggins’ Street Coffee—aptly (and quickly) nicknamed “Wiggle Ground” by the student body—at night and seeing a stock of empty booths leaves me with an instant pang of mourning. These glorious, wooden booths that once acted as the thrones of overly social studiers, awkward first daters, and late-night snackers now sit vacant. Perhaps this newfound emptiness reflects the void left by the disappearance of the famous Middle Ground salad or hummus and pita, or the earlier closing time, or the redecorating scheme, which my mom referred to as “morning coffee brown”;Wiggin Street Coffee and its redesign have elicited mixed reviews. Regardless of the cause, at first glance Wiggin Street Coffee doesn’t seem to be filling the hole that Middle Ground’s absence seems to have left in Kenyon students’ hearts.

But they’re sustainable, people! The father-son owners of Wiggin Street Coffee have traveled to Central and South America and worked with importers, so that the coffee beans they use both in Wiggins Street Coffee and their One Line Coffee wholesale coffee-roasting business can be traced back to individual farmers. Isn’t that something we like, Kenyon?

I think the retired Middle Ground sign posted up in the far corner of the Village Inn bar reminds us just how loved MG was by the Kenyon community. I actually witnessed a collective sigh from a few students sitting at the VI bar on Wednesday night as they gazed up at the shiny metallic oval that once hung as the proud gateway into the heavenly aroma of sweet potato fries, curried red lentil soup and those irreplaceable muffins, now resigned to its dejected position in the corner of a bar. You might be thinking, all this hype over a coffee shop? Really?

Perhaps the remorse we all feel at the closing of Middle Ground and its prompt replacement with a fairly similar coffee shop points towards a love of a certain lifestyle and continuity at Kenyon more so than a pervasive love of the old café.

Change is healthy and necessary, especially on such a liberal college campus like our own. It’s surprising how conservative we Kenyonians are in regards to maintaining “our” Kenyon given our typical adherence to a fairly liberal outlook—we cringe en-masse at recent changes like the reformed Sendoff 2.0, the new residence hall lock system, smoking policies, and, in keeping with the subject matter, the change in ownership of our signature corner café.

Maybe we’re not overreacting. Maybe the changes we truly hate to see are the ones that chip at the core of the foundation we’ve laid for ourselves here—our connection to Kenyon. When we see the parts of Kenyon that we contributed to and consistently experienced disappearing we see ourselves disappearing too; our marks on Kenyon fade like the chalk drawings in the Mather breezeway.

By realizing this, maybe we can give Wiggin Street Coffee a little more “wiggle room” as it acclimates to the tastes and needs of our ever-changing, ever-growing student body and appreciate for ourselves that our marks on Kenyon extend far deeper than the lipstick prints we left on Middle Ground’s signature coffee mugs.

(photo: Larry Miller…we can no longer take our own)


Ally Bruschi is a senior political science major at Kenyon College. She spent this past summer interning as a writer with both The Daily Meal, a digital media group  dedicated to "all things food and drink" and The Borgen Project, a non-profit organization that partners with U.S. policymakers to alleviate global poverty. Before entering the "real world" of jobs, however, Ally spent many summers as a counselor at an all-girls summer camp in Vermont, aka the most wonderful place on earth. A good book, a jar of peanut butter, a well-crafted Spotify playlist, and a lazy dog could get her through even the worst of days.
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