Schwemm’s Transformed into Merchandise Store
The Mammoth Market at Schwemm's was transformed over winter break. It no longer offers hot food and is in the process of being converted into the college's official apparel store. To compensate, the Science Center Cafe will become the sole option for late-night dining.
Students returned from winter break to find the Mammoth Market at Schwemm’s transformed. Long a favorite (and often the only) option for late-night dining, Schwemm’s is in the process of being converted into an official college apparel store, while the Science Center Cafe has expanded its hours and offerings to meet the late-night demand.
The late-night service is more limited than that offered by Schwemm’s last semester, closing at 10 p.m. instead of the typical 11 p.m. on school nights, and foregoing late-night service on Friday and Saturday nights entirely. The cafe’s menu has added a select few Schwemm’s “favorites” — chicken tenders, fries, mac-n-cheese bites, burgers, and shakes — which become available after 3 p.m., but the rest of the previous items, including the popular mozzarella sticks, will be unavailable.
The shake-up traces its origins to the closing of downtown Amherst staple AJ Hastings last summer. The store had long served as the go-to place for college gear. The new merch store at Schwemm’s is intended to replace it, according to Joe Flueckiger, executive director of dining services and hospitality services. “We can’t, as an institution, not have a brick-and-mortar [apparel] solution for guests, students, and alumni,” he said.
The college initially searched for another business in the area that could take over AJ Hastings’ role, but ultimately decided that the new store would have to be on campus. The small clothing section that was set up in Schwemm’s last semester “wasn’t satisfying the overall demand,” Flueckiger said, prompting the plan to replace food service in Schwemm’s with the new store and expand service at the Science Center. Though initially slated to take place during Thanksgiving break, the change was delayed after workers expressed concerns.
After a process that Flueckiger described as “engaging in a larger discussion with all of our campus partners and stakeholders” and “checking all our boxes,” the changes went ahead while students were away on winter break. In addition to the permanent store at Schwemm’s, the college has rolled out an online merch store and plans to open a “mobile retail trailer,” which will be available later this spring.
The pared-down Schwemm’s menu, reduced weekend hours, and greater distance from the center of campus have prompted concerns and disappointment from some students and staff.
Yolyana Rodriguez, the afternoon supervisor of the Mammoth Market, said that she expected less foot traffic at the Science Center Cafe than she had seen at Schwemm’s: “I don't see people walking here from Hitchcock, Garmin, Drew.”
In a message to The Student, Zane Khiry ’25 lamented the new, more out-of-the-way location for late-night food. “I’m really upset that they decided to move it and replace it with a merch store, especially given the fact that we can all just buy merch online now,” he wrote.
Flueckiger attributed the change to the fact that the college is pressed for space at the moment, forcing difficult decisions. He also said that the impetus for the reduced weekend services is the popularity of the free — and, he said, more equitable — late night option at Val Wednesday through Friday nights.
Flueckiger said he wanted students to remember that “we’re constantly thinking about how we can do better.” He said that the hours at the Science Center, and the retail options available to students generally, are never set in stone.
“The students are voting with their AC dollars,” he said. “We want to meet the students where they are at.”
Complaints surrounding the change go beyond the accessibility of late-night snacks, though.
A student employee, who requested to remain anonymous, reported a reduction in the number of available working hours to them following the changes. Whereas the student had in past semesters relied on their shifts at Schwemm’s to support themselves at college and send money home to their family, they have found fewer and shorter shifts available at the Science Center Cafe.
Flueckiger said in an interview with The Student that the changes would not affect the number of workers on Dining Services’ payroll and that the number of hours available to those workers would return to their former levels once shifts at the apparel store at Schwemm’s became available.
Nevertheless, the student employee told The Student that the situation was stressful. “Before, I always knew that they would give me as many hours as I asked for, and now that's not a reality for me anymore,” they said. “There’s all this uncertainty in background, on top of a typical course load.”
More generally, the student reported that the fast change had created uncertainty for all of the employees — student and non-student alike — at Schwemm’s and the Science Center. Longtime employees have had to quickly adapt to new work schedules after having settled into stable routines for years, they said. They also said that some less experienced student workers, who learned the ropes at Schwemm’s last semester, have had to adapt to a new menu and kitchen at the Science Center Cafe with little preparation.
“Now we're also responsible for knowing an entire new arsenal of recipes,” they said.
Rodriguez struck a different tone. “The addition of the items from Schwemm’s has been a smooth transition,” she said. “The quality of the food is actually better than what we were producing over at Schwemms.”
She did acknowledge that the new location seemed to be getting less traffic through the first week of operations, but also said that it was hard to tell due to the cold weather and it being the start of the semester.
The Science Center Cafe is now open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. The hours for the merchandise store at Schwemm’s are yet to be determined.