Once comprised of a mere snack cart situated outside Eaton Hall, student-run Oxfam Café has come a long way from its 1970’s roots. Now located across from the Hillel Center on the ground floor of Miller Residence Hall, the café operates from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday and is run by volunteers.
But during the evening and on weekends, the café serves as a concert venue for Tufts bands, local indie groups and even well known alternative acts. According to Oxfam employees, the concerts are good for both clients and the bottom line.
“I think what usually brings most people in are the concerts that we hold here, and over the last couple of years, Midnight Café — what it’s called when it becomes the performance venue — has really gotten on the map in Boston,” Advertising Manager and senior Mara Gittleman said. “We’ve gotten in The [Boston] Phoenix, that sort of thing. So I think that’s really what brings people into Oxfam for the first time. That’s what brought me in [for the first time] too.”
Aside from students who frequent the café during the day, other members of the Tufts community have found their niche in Oxfam as well.
“During the day, a lot of faculty come in who tend to work uphill — it’s basically all uphill people,” Gittleman said. “Students [who live uphill] will often come in before class; but midday it’s usually faculty and other adult figures.”
Music Co-Manager and senior Kelly Duroncelet said that when it comes to students, most tend to come to the café after having attended a concert there.
“I think it’s because a lot of people don’t know about the space, and when they see it, they think it’s pretty cool,” Duroncelet said. “Often, they’re really surprised: they’re really into the idea of Oxfam International and the fact that we donate our profits to Oxfam. So when we have shows, it brings people who buy food, so they’re donating in some way.”
Awareness of Oxfam International, which donates its proceeds to philanthropic work in developing countries, seems to draw many students to the café.
“During the day [at Oxfam] we get a lot of socially aware students; they think the idea of Oxfam is really cool, because of the donation aspect,” Duroncelet said. “We get a lot of people who live uphill who want coffee and specifically Fair Trade coffee.”
According to senior Carmel Curtis, also a music manager, the clientele has been on the rise in recent years.
“There have been more people coming each year — we just got wireless, so more people have been coming [to Oxfam] to study,” Curtis said. “And there have been more freshmen, especially at the beginning of the year, when they tend to seek out more things on campus.”
But the budding pool of freshmen who frequent the café is still largely a product of publicity from concerts.
“We have our Orientation show every year, where we showcase a bunch of good Tufts music and get freshmen interested,” Duroncelet said.
Although the concerts draw a fair amount of Tufts students, some Oxfam shows actually have boast a large portion of non-Tufts attendees.
“At night, for the shows, it’s different. It’s usually people who don’t go to this school,” Duroncelet said. “If there’s a Tufts band playing, I’d say half [of the concert attendees] are Tufts students. If there are no Tufts bands in the show, I’d say only one-third of the attendees are Tufts students.”
“A lot of bands will bring their own type of audience; it depends a lot on the age of the band, or how well they’re known,” Curtis said.