On an overcast, chilly Sunday afternoon, Cholmondeley’s Coffee House (Chum’s) is mostly empty, minus a few students working quietly on laptops. Soft music plays overhead, jumping from Frank Ocean to one of those songs only heard on TikTok. Chum’s offers a cozy respite from the more traditional spaces available on campus. Over a $1 cup of hot chocolate, students can use the space to study, hang out with friends and attend shows ranging from concerts to improv.  

Located in the historic Usen Castle, tucked into the corner of the building, Chum’s was named for the coonhound that belonged to campus photographer Ralph Norman, and serves as the only student-run coffeehouse on the Brandeis campus. It has an extensive college student - geared menu that includes cult-classics like Nutella sandwiches and pizza rolls at prices unheard of when compared to other places on campus. Chum’s has also been host to some pretty significant star power, such as Joan Baez, Tracy Chapman, and Genesis, just for starters. The space can be rented out by any group on campus and is open Thursday through Sunday at various times. 

Chum’s recently went through a significant remodel and had its grand re-opening on Thursday, Feb. 6. The re-opening featured a brand new chalk table, games, free food and drinks. The majority of the remodeling process happened over winter break. “We recently had the walls repainted from blue to warm orange tones over winter break,” Gabe Trevino ’20, one of Chum’s general managers, said in an email to the Justice. “The planning process was really a full team effort. We brainstormed what type of snacks and beverages to serve and how to advertise it. We had a great turnout on Thursday! The recent changes with the wall colors, more Christmas lights, as well as high tables and low coffee tables makes the space feel more like a traditional grungy yet warm space that is more alternative/unique than other spaces on campus,” he explained. 

Trevino first started working at Chum’s as a first-year. “I had attended WBRS concerts held in the space ... When I got hired, I was elated as it felt like the ‘coolest’ job on campus. Chum’s means a great deal to me, as once I started working here as a sophomore it was a freshly renovated space that was quite different from what I remember as a freshman,” he said. 

This made it an especially big deal when Chum’s decided to change their space this year following complaints about it feeling “too cold or sterile.” “Chum’s should be a safe space for students. Chum’s should be a creative outlet for students. Chum’s should be a study space or just a place to plop on a couch and chit chat with your friends,” Trevino said. 

Chum’s seems to leave a warm and lasting impression on those who work at and attend the coffeehouse. Chum’s other general manager, Anna Bartusis ’20, also got hired as a first-year and has worked there ever since.  Bartusis explained how the reopening was a largely collaborative experience for her and the rest of the staff. “We knew we wanted to offer a sampling of our drinks (coffee, tea, hot chocolate). Since we’re student-run, it’s up to our small staff of 7 to schedule our shifts and the main goal of the reopening, especially by having it during the afternoon, was to make the campus community more aware of our presence,” she said, also in an email to the Justice. She added that Chum’s, being student-run, is always open to suggestions and often looks to improve their menu and space: “We’re always working on our menu, providing super cheap drinks and snacks - everything from lattes and affogatos to soup and PB&Js. Nothing is over $3. We also just acquired a toaster oven which will definitely allow us to expand our menu” Also one of the recently implemented changes is the acceptance of credit cards as a payment method, “a huge step from being cash only for so long,” stated Bartusis.   

Nachos, ice cream and plenty of other affordable and tasty snacks await at Chum’s. Be sure to check them out.

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