REZquad offers an uphill location to study, relax, caffeinate

Two words come to barista Sam Costello’s mind when he walks into the REZquad Café for work, and they do not usually go hand in hand: relaxed and caffeinated. But everyone in the coffee shop seems to be both.

The REZquad, the relatively new uphill branch of the Mayer Campus Center’s The Rez, opened last February in the basement of Miller Hall, where Oxfam Café once stood. While Oxfam was characterized by loud, late−night noise bands and drunken socializing, the same venue managed by the Rez is home to quieter study sessions and coffee klatches, according to Costello, a senior.

Its decor — stylistically cleaner than the space used to be, Costello pointed out — is simple, but atmospheric. With its handmade wall tapestries, comfortable couches, chalkboard menu and deep, porcelain mugs, the REZquad begs to be your new living room — and the coffee machines lining the wall make it more attractive than your current one.

Not quite bohemian in mood, which is a lofty pursuit for the basement of a dormitory building, the REZquad is content with its minimalist design so long as it avoids both the volume of the campus center and the sterility of the library.

According to sophomore Emily Poole, a regular at the REZquad, until the new café came along, the Tufts campus, particularly uphill, was lacking a middle ground between a social and academic environment.

“I come here by myself a lot to get coffee and study, but I also meet friends here because it’s nice and not too crazy,” she said. “It’s not like the library so it’s not a strictly studious atmosphere — not a hunker−down−at−a−desk place. It’s relaxed and accessible. I like to be able to curl up on a couch with my cup of coffee and just get it done.”

Poole, a fan of the REZquad’s current design, finds the new café so practical for students living uphill that it was one of the primary reasons she decided to live in Miller Hall this year, she said.

Still, the REZquad’s image is a constantly evolving one and it is in the midst of some improvements, including the addition of sandwiches to the menu beginning this week, according to Personnel Manager Molly Schwartz, a senior.

“Ambience is something we’re working on,” Schwartz said. “We want to give it a comfortable but spunky attitude and make it a good place to hang out and do homework because we have the seating space, and we like the idea of doing something with it. We’re getting new furniture, which we got to pick out, and we welcome any suggestions on how to make this place unique. It’s an ongoing process.”

Part of the ambience changes with each new shift, as the café’s personality is defined by the individual student baristas on duty. Aside from having the staff choose the furniture together, Schwartz made the coffee−themed wall tapestries herself over the summer. Additionally, baristas get to play DJ during their shifts, which means that you will be listening to anything from the Swedish−born folk artist Tallest Man on Earth during Schwartz’s shift to classical piano concertos during someone else’s.

Baristas also concoct and name the specialty drinks, which — in addition to its later closing hour — distinguishes the REZquad from the Rez at the campus center.

Costello has yet to craft his drink, though he asserted that is likely for the good of the community.

“It would probably have Kahlua in it, which is kind of a problem,” he said.

University President Lawrence Bacow, on the other hand, has invented one of the REZquad’s most popular drinks, the “Larry Bacow,” or, in layman’s terms, peppermint hot chocolate. Tomorrow from 5 to 6 p.m., the REZquad plans to host an opening party at which the “Larry Bacow” will be the drink of the day, and attendees will enjoy free treats from Kickass Cupcakes, live music, discounted “Larry Bacows” all day and an appearance by the drink’s namesake.

While the uphill population and the café staff are excited about the space’s new look and function, there is some grief about the loss of Oxfam, including on the part of the REZquad’s staff and management.

“I think the image that came off was that we kicked off Oxfam, which we didn’t,” Schwartz said. “They were going to close, and we were invited to open in their place. Because we like them, we’re still planning on giving a percentage of our profits to Oxfam.”

Even so, Costello, a one−time employee of the late Oxfam, wishes that the REZquad would preserve some of Oxfam’s old grunge traditions.

“The new REZquad is completely different from Oxfam,” Costello said. “It makes money. It’s a little neater, more organized. People actually show up to their shifts. You can actually get food and drinks here, unlike Oxfam where maybe someone would show up, maybe they wouldn’t.”

“But there’s definitely something lost with the move from Oxfam,” he said. “It doesn’t have crazy things going on late at night anymore, unfortunately. My sophomore year, there were psychedelic rock shows and weird guys coming in and playing vacuum cleaners. On one side [of the café], there would be people making loud noises and breaking things, and on the other side, there would be drunk kids enjoying it. I want more crazy [stuff] to happen here late at night.”

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