Wrecking Ball’s future still unclear


Hassan Javed

The “Wrecking Ball Cafe” sits empty as a kiosk at the Lawrence Lee Pelletier Library.

On Monday, July 9, 2007, a 1,500-pound, three-foot wrecking ball that was demolishing a part of Allegheny College’s Lawrence Lee Pelletier Library broke from its chain and rolled three-quarters of a mile down North Main St.
The extraordinary event not only made the national news, but led to the creation of “The Wrecking Ball Cafe,” which originally served studying students at the front of the library — the current location of the Library Services Desk, according to Director of Library Services Aimee Reash, ’96.
The Wrecking Ball Cafe was later moved to its current location in front of the library’s main floor entrance during the 2014 renovation that introduced the Learning Commons.
The library partnered with Allegheny’s former dining service provider, Parkhurst, to stock the cafe.
During the 2013-14 academic year, students communicated the need for food availability in the library to the administration, according to Reash.
“If I remember correctly, the students conducted a survey which showed a need for a food option in the library,” Reash said. “I thought it was wonderful that Allegheny allowed students to not only consume food and drink in the library, but also made it easier for them by having it readily accessible.”

Fenn Kathman, ’23, a former employee of the cafe, said that the original cafe served a range of products from coffee to frozen products.
“The original cafe was a large space and there was a lot of student engagement,” Kathman said. “Although I only worked at the Wrecking Ball kiosk, I remember the original cafe from my time as a freshman.”
After students were sent home in the spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wrecking Ball never saw a return to form.
“Amongst all the different logistical and infrastructural changes, Parkhurst determined that it could no longer run the bigger cafe,” Reash said.
In the fall of 2020, the cafe was replaced by a smaller kiosk. The variety of products sold at the cafe changed significantly, as only a few options — such as chips and protein bars — replaced the previous extensive menu.
The cooler that was used to house cold and frozen goods at the original Wrecking Ball Cafe was relocated to the Brooks Pine Market, according to Reash.
Although the reduction of the cafe to a kiosk and the limited food options were disappointing, the existence of a food option in the library was still encouraging, according to Kathman.
“The number of people that the cafe hired dropped and the types of food served were also slashed, but it was still convenient and satisfying that we could grab a quick snack while studying rather than having to go to Brooks or (McKinley’s) to get food,” Kathman said.
Reash added that it was particularly helpful to have a kiosk in the library during snowy weather.
“During the wintertime, there is a lot of snow and the general gloomy weather has students feeling down anyway,” Reash said. “It’s very difficult to concentrate and find a workflow and having to break that to walk across campus and get a snack sounds like a big pain.”
Unfortunately, the Wrecking Ball Cafe did not return at all with the start of the 2022-23 academic year.
As Allegheny parted ways with Parkhurst and entered into a new partnership with Aramark Higher Education, the Wrecking Ball Cafe was left out of the equation.
Administrators communicated to Reash that the Wrecking Ball Cafe would not be manageable due to the abrupt transition from one dining service provider to another.
“I wasn’t told much about the issue except that the cafe wouldn’t be returning,” Reash said. “Currently, I have no update on when the cafe will return, if at all.”
The mainstay countertop of the Wrecking Ball Cafe is still present, however it remains empty and unattended apart from the small board that tells the story of the wrecking ball of 2007.
International Student Support Staff Member Angel Astaria, ’22, recalled the Wrecking Ball Cafe during her time as a student.
“My friends and I had the habit of studying late at the library,” Astaria said. “I feel bad for students now because they’ll have no food options during the late-night study sessions.”
Astaria added that having the Wrecking Ball kiosk was also very convenient for her during her experience working as a staff member.
“Many times I have gotten hungry and have bought something small from the kiosk,” Astaria said. “I’ve really been feeling its absence this semester and I really sympathize with the students.”
It remains uncertain if and when the Wrecking Ball Cafe will return to the library, but it is certain that students have demonstrated a need for it, according to Reash.
“I’ve been observing students in the library,” Reash said. “A lot of students have been asking about the cafe and even complaining about its absence.”