The Paradox is Back, Baby!

The Olde Shoppe Reopens After Closing Due to COVID-19

Things are starting to take a turn for the better in terms of student life here at Reed. Paradox co-managers Nalani McFadden and Paulina Poleyumptewa have reopened its doors to the severely decaffeinated student body. The Paradox has been a facet of Reed since 1985 and is the primary source of caffeine and company for a significant portion of the Reed community. However, because of COVID-19, it had to shut down last spring; due to unexpected issues, it has only now been able to reopen. 

Photo Courtesy of the Paradox Cafe.

Photo Courtesy of the Paradox Cafe.

“We had actually been trying to reopen all last semester.” Nalani McFadden says about her and Paulina’s efforts to get the Paradox up and running again. Unfortunately, because of many complications, those efforts had to be tabled for a long time. Some of the complications were expected, such as filling out forms and going back and forth with Reed to draft a proposal allowing student baristas to go back into the space and work on campus while making sure they follow the proper safety procedures and regulations to keep everyone protected. Other complications were unexpected, such as the presence of mold permeating the shop. “I can’t emphasize enough how hazardous it was and how unsafe it was to just be in their breathing, period,” McFadden recounts in describing her experience of going into The Paradox for the first time after coming back. When neither co-manager had the access codes for the space yet, their espresso machine malfunctioned and left a pool of water on the floor over the summer. During that time, the mold spread, seeping into everything in the shop. “It was genuinely the scariest health related thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It was coming out of the couches, and the tables, and the art on the walls. Any kind of absorbent surface you can think of had mold growing out of it.” They were able to clean the shop, but it took many weeks. By the time they could even think of reopening, it was two weeks before winter break, and there didn’t seem to be a point to reopen only to close right away. 

Now they have finally been given the clearance by Reed to open for this semester. Armed with Reed’s COVID safety protocols and way too many disposable gloves, baristas are now taking orders, making drinks, tossing gloves, washing hands, putting new gloves on, and going back to take the next orders. As you can see, some steps were added to protect baristas and customers. Other precautions include that, in order to maintain safe distance, only one barista will be working at a time instead of the usual two. After that barista’s shift is up, they will wash everything down for the next barista to come in. The threat of COVID has changed the barista’s operation, and that’s not the only thing it’s changed. Instead of going inside, customers will line up outside one window to order and another to pick up their drinks, which baristas affectionately call the drive-thru. To keep everyone safe, customers are also not allowed to use to-go cups or the reusable mugs that the Paradox provided in the past. And, of course, everyone will be wearing masks. Safety has become the top priority at the Paradox.

While The Paradox will be reopening, a lot of what makes it unique is currently unavailable to the Reed population due to the COVID restrictions. For many people at Reed, The Paradox was a community. People who have been in the space pre-COVID might remember the mismatched chairs and sofas and the art hanging on the wall. Even if you were just there to pick up a drink, you would be in a cozy room with good coffee and a lively atmosphere. The coffee’s still the same, but the atmosphere will be a little different from now on. When people are allowed back in, they will return to a different Paradox. Because of the mold, all of the artwork and furniture had to be tossed out, so a lot of features of the Paradox will be gone when people can go back in. As sad as this is, the co-managers have decided to treat this as a new start. “It’s a blank slate right now, for sure,” McFadden states, “But it’s also really exciting because it feels like we can leave a really palpable mark on the Paradox in the future aesthetically and also culturally within how it functions and how it operates.” With everything that’s happened, the post-COVID Paradox definitely won’t be the same, but it might be even better than you remember.

Follow the Paradox Cafe on Instagram at for up-to-date information.

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