By Marissa Stipek, Opinion Editor
It’s a Monday morning, I don’t have class until 1:00, and I have a considerable amount of homework I have neglected over the weekend. All signs are telling me to go grab a cup of coffee and post up at my favorite study spot, Kofenya, for the next few hours.
I trek up High Street, prepared to hunker down with my textbooks and a mug of House Blend. As I reach to open the door, I notice with mild interest that the usual sign reading “We Proudly DO NOT Brew Starbucks Coffee (So Don’t Bring It In Here!)” is missing. When I enter, I am confronted with more changes. The once-colorful walls have been painted black and the mismatched seating options have been replaced with standard table and chair sets. What happened to the eclectic coffee shop I loved?
Let me be honest — the main reason I was so thrown off by Kofenya’s new look is because I don’t like change. And as we all know, Miami has gone through quite a bit of it in the past few years.
My freshman dorm, Dennison, was affectionately nicknamed “The Dirty Den;” the name is hardly fitting for the pristine residence hall it has been transformed into. First-years assigned to live there will never stand in line for brunch on a Saturday morning, anxiously awaiting the 11 a.m. opening of Erickson Dining Hall. They will never get ice cream from Tuffy’s in Shriver Center. They will never know that the first floor of King used to be filled with cubicles to study in.
Looking up and down High Street, a lot has changed as well. The skeleton of Bill’s Art Store stands empty on its former corner. The Pita Pit is gone. Part of the building that used to house Morning Sun Café has been replaced with an electronic cigarette store.
That’s not to say all the changes have been bad — I’ve never heard anyone complain how much they miss TGD, the restaurant that served Thanksgiving food 365 days a year. And I’m definitely not complaining about the addition of Insomnia Cookies. Underclassmen are fortunate to live in the new, upscale residence halls. It’s just that nothing makes me feel like a washed-up senior more than knowing that the Miami of my first year is completely different than the Miami the incoming first-years will come to know and love.
Kofenya’s makeover is kind of like in the movies when the nerdy girl disappears for the summer, then comes back with better-behaved hair and more fashionable clothes. Kofenya has transformed from quirky to cool. It is sleeker and more sophisticated. And this “grown-up” look seems to be exactly what the owner intended.
Owner Liz Snyder wrote on Kofenya’s website that when she opened the shop with a friend in 2004, she was a naïve 20-year-old, uncertain of what would come of her venture. Ten-years later, the business was still going strong, but it was time for a makeover. Her focus shifted from being hip to being high quality. However, she writes that the “heart” of Kofenya has stayed the same, saying, “We are here for the people.”
Luckily, some of the aspects I consider intrinsic to Kofenya’s character still remain. The usual board games are available up at the counter. The menu still offers the classic coffees, teas and specialty drinks, along with breakfast options like oatmeal, bagels and some really great muffins. And the bathroom still features the practically iconic chalkboard walls, where visits scrawl song lyrics, inspirational quotes and the occasional inappropriate cartoon.
Although I was initially shocked, I suppose I could get used to the “new” Kofenya. After all, it’s nice to have a couch to sit on that isn’t bursting with stuffing or held together with duct tape. It doesn’t seem as though my fellow customers are bothered by the renovations either. They value Kofenya not just for what it looks like, but what it is — a place to study, to meet with friends, to clear your head during a particularly busy day. By 10 a.m. the place is packed. To my left, a group of older men are discussing religion. To my right, a couple is sharing a scone. These are familiar scenes. This is the Kofenya I remember.
As I sat there enjoying my drink, I noticed a girl at the table next to me unpack a telltale pink “La Boulange” bag and pull out a bagel. So, on a serious note, they might want to consider putting that whole “No Starbucks” sign back up.