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Huddle gets an aesthetic facelift

Meghan Wons | Friday, January 19, 2007

The LaFortune Student Center underwent its latest facelift during Christmas break as the University renovated the nook in the southeast corner, home to quarter dogs and the wall of candy: the Huddle Mart.

Jim Labella, Huddle manager, said the Huddle Mart was “originally going to be part of the summer rennovations” that included the main lounge and seating areas around Subway and Burger King. While the Office of Student Activities was responsible for renovating these areas, Food Services was put in charge of changes to the Huddle Mart.

The refurbishing, which includes new flooring, lighting, counterwork, a new ceiling and an expanded display area, was the first in the Huddle Mart’s 11-year history. The plans were the result of a collaborative effort between Labella, designers employed by the University, and the vendor from whom Food Services purchased the counterwork, Labella said.

“It turned out very well; I’m very happy with the outcome,” he said.

As for new products, Labella said the Huddle Mart’s products are always changing, but nothing major was added or replaced over Christmas break – he did say, however, that with more display area, there will be room for more and perhaps some different products.

Especially considering the attention paid to LaFortune over the summer, Labella said, decorum changes for the Huddle Mart were due.

“Now everything blends in,” he said.

Senior graphic design and marketing major Noel Carson appreciates the new aesthetics of the convenience store, calling it “more professional, less cluttered.”

Great-great grandmother Helen Hitte has been a LaFortune employee for “39 years last October,” Hitte said, and she has seen a lot of changes during her tenure. She recalls the days of selling smokes to students at what she called the “cigarette counter” years ago, and talking to the football players when they would come in after practice.

“The Huddle [Mart] wasn’t even here about twenty years ago,” Hitte said. “The renovations are nice; it’s nice and bright for the kids so they can come in at night and get their food,” she said.

At 84 years old, Hitte continues to work at LaFortune because “I just like to be around people,” she said.

Hitte believes that with its new renovations, LaFortune will likely continue to attract plenty of students seeking good food, a place to study or, for regulars like Hitte, the company of friends.