In 1955, a group of students in Carl Stern’s Economics I class approached the professor with an idea. They wanted to open a shop where students could buy food and supplies.
The idea quickly caught on, and in just one night of fundraising, they raised $1,500 to begin what was known then, and ever since, as the Skeller.
“We had no trouble getting started,” said Stern, who retired from the College in 1992. “The Skeller was a huge success.”
Over the decades, the snack bar became a focal point of social activity, not only serving food, but hosting traditions, including the spirited class-rivalry Skeller Sings. Through the years, the Skeller changed its look and operations, but the personal atmosphere remained. In February, when Randolph’s new Student Center opened its doors after a $6 million renovation, Randolph’s community was greeted with a new and improved Skeller featuring an expanded menu and more space. While the facility gained much in appearance, the College preserved the unique atmosphere. “Our hope is that students will be very excited to have the appearance and the food selection in the new Skeller,” said John E. Klein, president.
The original Skeller was on the lower floor of Main Hall annex, where the Information Technology department is today. The fairly private venue allowed a relaxed atmosphere where students felt comfortable eating without dressing up, which was expected in the College’s other dining areas. Its back-campus entrance was marked by a sign, which was occasionally stolen, only to turn up later on men’s college campuses, Stern said.
The Skeller’s road was not always smooth. At one time the shop sued a supplier that had been caught stealing, only to lose that court battle. Popularity waned among students when it moved to a more public area. The Skeller even obtained an alcohol license and served beer for a short time. After 50 years of operation by a student board, the group asked the College to take over management of the facility in the early 2000s.
During the Student Center construction, the Skeller was moved temporarily to Cheatham Dining Hall, where food was served in the evenings.
The new Skeller features new fixtures, equipment, menu options, and places to eat. Customers can enjoy their food in a new café with large windows facing the Blue Ridge Mountains or eat on the outdoor deck.
Randolph originally considered adding computerized touch-screen ordering systems, but decided against it to preserve the Skeller’s personal touch. “We still want to have the personal interaction between the customer and the person taking your order and cooking your food,” Klein said.
Hannah Coleman ’13, who has worked in the Skeller throughout her college years, was excited to start working in the new Skeller. She sees it retaining the atmosphere that made it a popular place to do homework, relax, and socialize.
“With the bigger space and so many more options, I think it will become the hub of campus,” she said.