In the dead of winter, there are some days you want a cold beverage. Most people look at you funny when you say that but for me it’s true. If I want coffee, it must be iced no matter what season it is. With this being said, I am not a huge coffee drinker; if I’m going to have coffee it has to be mocha with lots of sugar and cream. In all honesty, even then I still hate the taste of coffee. This was the beginning of how I found Fans.
While casually strolling through the Chu Atrium in Marano Campus Center to get to the Starbucks in the library, I happened to glance to the side and found a little area that sold smoothies called Fans. I had heard of Fans before, but just assumed it was like a smaller version of the college store, not a smoothie shop. The greatest sense of relief hit me knowing that I didn’t have to go to Starbucks and that I could get a cold drink. Next was the sense of being out of my element.
Fans offered an overwhelming variety of different smoothies and I was nervous to even approach the counter because every drink sounded better than the last. The menu had at least 30 different options with prices and calories listed next to them. In the end, I ordered a Peanut Butter Dream which contained, of course, peanut butter, chocolate, banana, and whip cream. While waiting for the drink I took some time to take a peek at my surroundings. The first thing I noticed was that there were only three employees working all wearing the exact same uniform. One was manning the blender, another was taking orders, and a third seemed to be on break or was overseeing the other two. It was very hard to tell what the third person’s role was because they were casually hanging out behind the counter talking to the other two employees. It was easy to hear what they were all discussing because it was between classes and the atrium was quiet. It was so quiet in fact that I could hear students outside of the atrium walking through the campus center trying to catch the bus or just taking a walk. The students who were taking the bus weren’t very loud at all and with the silence, I could hear to bus parking outside of the building. Students inside the atrium were dead silent or at least you couldn’t hear them based on where I was standing.
The smoothie shop is kind of hidden away in an alcove and almost feels cut off from the rest of the atrium. There is a little sitting area in the Fans that is very cozy, but also nerve-racking because it is a little claustrophobic. The table and chairs are practically sitting on top of one another. Once I was situated in the little sitting area my order was called and I could smell each ingredient from 15 feet away.
I hadn’t really paid attention to what the smells were since ordering was as difficult as it was, but once I went to the counter, I became hungry. They had freshly baked desserts on the counter, and they smelt delicious. It smelt so good in fact that you could practically taste it. With the strength of knowing that my bank account could not handle me buying fresh baked goods, I returned to the sitting area once more. By this point there were more students passing through and classes were about to let out. The noise level increased which was only tuned out by the sound of the blender going for less than a minute for the one other person who wanted a smoothie. Outside of Fans, there had to be at least 50 students and professors who passed through and none of which stopped, other than the one other person. After about 10 minutes the noise went back to silence until a young guy was moving a round table through the atrium and it squeaked the whole way down the hallway. In the two hours, I was sitting at Fans, I only saw a handful of individuals order a drink.
As I got up to leave, I thought about how I felt sitting in the little area. I mostly felt relaxed and cold. Relaxed because I was just hanging out people watching, which is one of my favorite past times. Cold because I was drinking a smoothie and it was snowing outside. Within the that cold though, I felt the comforting kind of tired, the kind you have after a long successful day. Most importantly, the employees made me feel welcomed. They could have just ignored me the whole time but they asked what I was doing and I was honest with them. They found it interesting and would check in with me every few minutes to see how I was doing. If the place was busier this would definitely not have happened.
It was very clear that the smoothie shop had a welcoming atmosphere and was intended for faculty and students who were in a rush or wanted to lounge around and just relax. From conversations I heard with the students in the room, most had classes very close to Fans. With the location and size of the space in mind, it was evident that the intent of the space was focused on having a relaxing, quick atmosphere that was just a short stop for people. Out of the maybe five people who ordered in the two hours, only 1 stopped a little longer and sat in the sitting area with me. At most, it took two minutes for one smoothie to be made. On the other hand, I noticed one of the people was debating about sitting in the little space, but decided against it because it was so small. They sat in the atrium for about an hour. Overall, I felt that barrier that may have hindered Fans are the wall that cuts off the sitting area from the rest of the atrium. It is too small and the furniture in that space makes it feel that much smaller, but the place also offers a wide variety of smoothies that even now I am debating going back and getting another. The employees have an efficient strategy system for when it gets a little busy, but most importantly it was a very welcoming environment.
Picture taken by Delaney.