September 3, 2004

Martha's Celebrates Opening

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Cornell Dining and the College of Human Ecology celebrated Cornell’s newest dining facility yesterday by giving away free chocolate bars and T-shirts — not to mention a laptop, portable MP3 player and PDA from Dell. Martha’s opened in June and has been celebrating its inauguration since freshmen first stepped on campus Aug. 20.

Colleen Wright-Riva, director of Cornell Dining’s dining and retail services, and Lisa Staiano-Coico, dean of the College of Human Ecology, briefly addressed students in Martha’s to welcome them to the new facility.

“I hope Martha’s will become a home away from home when you’re in class and you don’t have a chance to go back to your apartments or your dorm rooms,” Staiano-Coico said.

After Wright-Riva and Staiano-Coico’s welcoming speeches, Frank L. Carollo, director of marketing and communications with Campus Life, drew three tickets from a box to raffle off the Dell 1150 wireless notebook, Digital Jukebox MP3 player and Axim X30 PDA. Tickets for the drawing were available for free with every purchase at Martha’s since Aug 20.

The Digital Jukebox and PDA were awarded to Prashant Kakad, grad and Lori Molinari, a staff member with the Entrepreneurship and Personal Enterprise program, respectively. None of the winners were present at the ceremony, but Carollo said that they would be reached with whatever contact information they provided on their tickets.

Wright-Riva said that turnout at Martha’s has been good, and that although it gets “very busy” and the staff is still adjusting to the new flow of students, “we’re ready to serve.” Victor Younger, general manager of retail dining of Cornell Dining, estimated that Martha’s is expected to created about $550,000 in revenue this year, and so far, he said, it is on track toward that goal. June Feller, operations manager for the agriculture quad, said Martha’s currently serves about 600 customers a day. She aims for that number to grow to 800.

To Younger, one of Martha’s biggest lures is that is provides members of the College of Human Ecology a place to eat without them having to leave the building, especially once the weather gets worse.

Students eating lunch after the ceremony seemed to think that Martha’s food was up to Cornell’s usual quality. Lauren Allen ’08 said that the food was not anything special, but added that “the people who work here are really nice.” As for the ceremony itself, Allen said she “was disappointed in not winning anything, but the candy bar made up for it.”

One of Martha’s features is Taco Salad Thursday, when the cafeteria serves a taco salad served in a taco shell bowl. Wright-Riva said had been a big hit at Martha’s previous location before it closed in 2001. Doug McLaren ’05 ate the taco salad yesterday and said it was “really good.” He said that although he usually eats at the Ivy Room, he has been to Martha’s regularly and plans to continue.

“I’m definitely going to be here twice a week,” he said.

Martha’s offers an a la carte menu of sandwiches, soups, a daily hot food selection, baked goods and espresso drinks. Located at the basement level of Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, it seats about 45 people and opens to a courtyard with two picnic tables and four benches.

About 60 people were inside during the ceremony, and about another 20 sat outside, some at the picnic tables or on the benches, others taking advantage of the weather to lunch on the grass.

The College of Human Ecology’s first eatery was The Green Room, which opened in 1913 and moved in 1934 to the college’s Office of Admission, Student and Career Development’s current location. It was renamed Martha’s in the early 1960s, but in 2001, some damage to the building’s structure forced it to close.

Since then, Wright-Riva and Barry Brighton, assistant dean for administration of the College of Human Ecology, have been working on relocating it. Wright-Riva said that with its easy access and closeness to the courtyard, the current location is wonderful.

“In my opinion, this has been an incredible transformation into what I would describe as prime basement real estate,” Wright-Riva joked, addressing her audience yesterday.

Archived article by Yuval Shavit
Sun Staff Writer