NOAA Novemberspring2006

reunions imageParadox Reunion Chatter

Big Joe on Campus

Twenty-five former Paradox Café managers representing eleven class years gathered to celebrate the café’s founding, tell disaster stories, share memories, and reflect on how and why the Paradox continues to be such an integral part of the Reed experience. Matt Giraud ’85 and Michael Magrath ’84, two of the original founders of the student-managed cafe, organized the lively get-together and recorded personal testimonies from the evening.

Matt Giraud opened up the floor by explaining that the Paradox was always about creating an appealing place “by students and for students.” It was also meant to be fluid. “Each generation [of workers and managers] would spawn its replacements. Each new generation would get to redefine the café.”

The original café opened in 1985 in the student union gallery, under the name the Gallery Café; it was renamed Paradox in 1986. A sister café, Paradox Lost, opened during the 2002–03 school year in the ground floor of the biology building, following renovation of Hauser Memorial Library.

Sonja (Seltzer) Sackman ’90 talked about the early days. The idea was born when she, Magrath, and Rachel Howarth ’87 were hanging out in a coffeehouse off campus. “We were thinking, we should really have a café like this. You know, we could really stand to be at school if we had a café like this at school.”

Sackman managed the café during the 1986–87 school year with childhood friend Erica Tarrant ’90. One story in particular struck a chord with everyone in the room. “My worst memory is waking up to a phone call on Saturday morning saying that nothing was working. It was fall finals week.” She paused for dramatic emphasis before delivering her managerial response. “’Did you plug it in?’ Has anyone ever had to say that, as a café manager? ‘Did you plug it in?’”

While the alumni who managed the café during the 1980s talked about introducing European-style coffee to students who didn’t understand the difference between an espresso and a cappuccino, more recent managers have had to deal with the effects of the now ubiquitous highbrow coffee culture. For some, the lack of coffee snobbery at the Paradox was the main appeal. One recent manager said, “The first time I went in, I ordered a double mocha or something, and they gave me a large black coffee. I thought, ‘I really want to work here.’”

—Emily Mentzer ’08


reunions image
Sonja (Seltzer) Sackman ’90 and Cate (Cripe) Franken ’90 check out the dÉcor in the original Paradox CafÉ to see what’s changed in the years since they were managers.