Quintessential Kenyon: Student Life, Uncut

Better Latte Than Never: or, How I Learned to Love Wiggin Street

Christopher Paludi
January 29, 2019

I came back to Kenyon this year expecting to miss the old library. As a sophomore I spent most of my time there, reading by myself for hours on the silent third floor. But this year, my friend Paris and I decided that we’d meet up every Monday night at Wiggin Street Coffee, and almost immediately, it became one of my favorite spots on campus.

Wiggin Street is a hub and a bustle, softly lit and cozy, home to both the group study session and the classic first date. Coffee and pastries draw the village’s regulars to the leather armchairs beside wide windows, and by the counter stand parents and their children, visiting for the first time. Look up from your table, and in one glance you may see retired professors, next year’s incoming class, and your friend who just walked in.

That generational range fascinates me. I remember sitting in Wiggin before even applying to Kenyon (and before I began my coffee habit). As a first year, my now-advisor invited me there for coffee when I was still just a student in an introductory course. Now I’m sometimes there for opening at 8 a.m. on Saturdays and until closing at 10 p.m. on Mondays. You get used to the rhythm, learn what to expect. Weekends bring visiting sports teams in for a post-game coffee; weeknights see intensive language classes stop by on their way home after their evening session. Art students enjoy the natural light. English majors mine overheard conversation for inspiration. Folks like me, we thrive on seeing the same crowd; just by saying hi every week, those unexpected chats can turn an acquaintance into a friend.

The magic of Wiggin is that these memories aren’t unique to me. Stop a Kenyon student on Middle Path and they’d say similar things, with their own twist. Maybe their relationship began at Wiggin over coffee, maybe they heard Jim Croce for the first time on the shop radio, or maybe they got hired after a Wiggin job interview. So many of us have been helped by a new friend plugging our laptop charger into their booth’s outlet. And who among us, walking in to find the shop crowded, hasn’t asked to share a table with someone we barely know, or taken out our headphones and walked over to greet a classmate?

I’ll admit, I’m not at my most productive when I work in Wiggin. I doubt many are. But there’s so much more to life than efficiency, and boy is it good for Kenyon students to take a load off once in a while.