Those who have been on Liberty Street near the Tavern may have noticed the empty storefront that stands on the opposite corner. For years the building has appeared to be abandoned and neglected, despite being operational as a deli and post office. What was once known several decades ago as the Campus Luncheonette and Store at 23rd and Liberty Street is expected to reopen under a new name and owner this fall.
New York investor and commercial real estate broker Jason Lund bought the property with the assistance of the Lehigh Financial Group. Renovations are expected to be finished in time for next semester when Lund will open the cafe as well as a student storage facility in the basement and apartments above.
The building’s ground floor will be occupied by the new Cafe Fraís (pronounced like the English word “fry”). Lund hopes to allow the cafe to be open from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., six days a week. As for possible menu offerings, he listed “gourmet coffee – hot and cold brew – fresh fruit smoothies, eclectic teas, made-to-order salads and subs and sandwiches,” as well as the New York staples of pizza and bagels.
Lund explained that the menu will be lacking any fried foods that students may be expecting. The cafe would require a permit in order to have a fryer and Lund opted to just go without. He chose the name partially for the irony this created.
“The chef we’re hiring is going to have the option to cater specific dishes to the community and college students. You’ll be able to order a nice meal or a very simple meal and have it delivered right to your dorm room,” Lund said, adding that he hopes that the “direct to dorm delivery service” will be a hit with students.
As for prices, Lund is looking at breakfast meals being anywhere from $5- 9, lunch being $10-12 and dinner $14-15.
“The price points are right with what you can get anywhere else nearby in Allentown. I’m very conscious of the student viewpoint on cost,” Lund said.
“I’m going to be a member of the ‘I Heart Muhlenberg’ program,” Lund said, meaning Cafe Frais will be offering discounts to students, faculty and staff, as well as searching for inspiration from them through the use of a formal feedback email address and possible rotating specials at customer requests. For now, members of the community wishing to send suggestions can contact Lund directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lund also plans on hiring students, saying “A big part of my business model is hiring students and with a flexible schedule. To create atmosphere for students to have a good job. That’s big part of this.” He also mentioned working with Dean Gulati to ensure flexible shifts.
The building’s basement will house about 30 storage lockers for students with access to them from 6:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. The top floor will then be home to apartments open to students and community members alike.
“I started hearing Allentown, Allentown, Allentown and I came here and it was beautiful,” Lund said when asked why Muhlenberg, adding that a business partner was a graduate and had first mentioned the school to him. “I was shocked how many people from the North East come to the school.”
“I think that’s awesome,” Natalie Falcone ‘18 said about the plans to open the cafe and storage facility. “I think the delivery’s a really nice option, especially since it’s right next to Muhlenberg. I wish the Tavern would take advantage of that opportunity because I know a lot of people would love to have their pizzas delivered.”
“That sounds really convenient and I think people would really take advantage of it,” Sara Rosenman ‘17 said of the delivery service. In regards to the menu and the specialty Muhlenberg meals in specific, Rosenman added, “That sounds really cool and definitely targeted toward a college audience.”
The location is point of particular interest for many students. “The idea of getting food without having to go get it is divine, and that it’s a walkable off campus option is also appealing,” Eric Steinbach ‘19 said.
“It’s great that it’s on the east side of campus. A lot of upperclassmen have to walk across campus even just to get food,” agreed Michele Fromel ‘18.
“I feel like the only things that’s around here that’s in walking distance is Syb’s, so it would be nice to have something else that’s so close to campus for a food option,” said Marissa McKenna ‘17. “It’s open the whole day and beyond just normal business hours.”
“Every college has its culture and I’m looking forward to finding the right blend and solution for Muhlenberg.”
Falcone agreed, “That’s also nice hours. It’ll also be nice for people who don’t have a car on campus because it’ll give them more options than walking to the Tavern or getting food on campus.”
As for the storage lockers, McKenna added that she thought the idea was interesting. “I don’t think that I would personally use that, but maybe for people who live far away and need to store things, that would be good.”
“I’m definitely excited for more food options, even though our on campus food is great,” said Svati Zaveri ‘18. Adding, “Muhlenberg needs something new, but I also think this will become a part of Muhlenberg very quickly.”
Above all, Lund is hoping that his endeavors will be a good fit in the community and campus. “Every college has its culture and I’m looking forward to finding the right blend and solution for Muhlenberg.”