Food for thought

By Bill Knief

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A snack bar. At first it seems like a relatively small item in the larger scheme of things. But, like the recent advent of free bus service to the Klauer campus, it has big implications for our community college.

Jennifer Campbell, who already runs no less than three successful businesses in Taos— Mondo Kultur, Treat and just recently Wrappers—fell in love with the space in the new Pueblo Hall the moment she saw it. When asked what kind of arrangements she would need to get the place up and running, she said, “I can make this place work with any arrangement the college wants.”

And so she has. Students coming off spring break expecting bags of chips and canned sodas were treated to pastries, muffins, breads, bagels, cookies and pies, croissants, sandwiches, salads, espresso, coffee and more, served up fresh from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. five days a week.

“”It feels good to be out here on the college campus,” Campbell said. “It’s a beautiful place, and the views are fantastic. It’s like being out of town on vacation but I still get to work. Everyone is so nice. The first day one of the instructors gave his class a 10 minute break and told the students to come check us out. We sold out of sandwiches the first day, and then we sold out again the second day even though I brought twice the amount.

“The menu will change week by week, and now that I will be getting my processor’s license, I will be able to process foods at my main kitchen in town and bring them out here: lasagna, chicken and veggie pot pies, quiches, wraps, soups and small pizzas. I have a one year contract with UNM-Taos which can be renewed annually. I pay a fee to the college for allowing me to use this space and beautiful new equipment. It’s just a fantastic opportunity and the university is being very generous. I’m just thrilled to be a part of it all. I feel like it is the beginning of a student community out here on the campus. I think that is the start of something terrific for the town.”

She’s not alone. Longtime professor of languages Larry Torres commented that it was a great service for the students and long overdue. Joel Whitehead, head of the Academy of Computer and Business Technology, said he just came by to smell the coffee and ended up sitting down with a slice of apple pie. Mish Rosetti had his books spread out on the table in front of him while he sipped his coffee. “This changes everything. I’m not able to pack a lunch all the time and I don’t have a chance to go off campus because it is so far away from everything. This is awesome. I won’t have to be eating everything out of vending machines any more.”

There is an educational component as well.

“I have discussed with (Culinary Arts Director) Carol Lee the possibility of tying this in with her program,” Campbell added. “Perhaps we can bring interns in to see what it’s like from the operations side of running a business. It’s a completely hands on operation, and whoever I have up here, with or without me, will be empowered to run the business as if it were their own.

“I really firmly believe that knowledge is power. I set people up with the tools that they need and I work side by side with them so they fully understand exactly what goes on. I do everything that they do. My staff can come in key in hand and unlock that door and get the business up and running for the day. They know how to schedule, control cost of goods, how to order and do every aspect of the business. That gives the employee a sense of ownership, and that in turn gives them a very different perspective on being in business. They’re not just an employee, they’re fully a participant.”

While others in the community complain that you can’t get good workers in Taos, Campbell continues training competent, enthusiastic, responsible staff that makes extraordinary customer service look easy.

About The Bill Knief