A mural of abstract collages — dancing blacks, blues and beiges — lay on the back right wall of Saxbys on Liacouras Walk. On one wall of the cafe, gravity-defying sculptures, frozen in pirouettes, are balanced on shelves.
Saxbys was renovated over the summer that were “long overdue,” said Saxbys CEO Nick Bayer. The store reopened Aug. 29 after being closed since late June.
“The original coffee shop was one that was not really inspired from what the company is today, which is a very design-forward company,” Bayer said.
Jonathan DeDecker, a second-year Fine Arts masters student, painted the mural.
“I looked at the space for a little bit, and then came back an hour and a half later with some drawings and just sort of scaled them up,” he said. “Everything else was kind of improvised.”
One thing DeDecker kept in mind was that Saxbys felt “very warm and cozy,” he said. He wanted to create something that contrasted that, so he used colder colors.
DeDecker said it felt “kind of weird” seeing his work displayed in a busy public setting on campus. He added that he hopes to get feedback on his work through the display.
“I can learn about myself,” he said.
In addition to his mural, DeDecker has three other works hanging up on the right wall, each with a similar sinuous appearance that its audience is left to decipher.
His mural will stay up for the rest of the semester and will eventually be made into tiles to place along the bathroom walls, in order to perpetuate his piece.
After he heard about the opportunity, DeDecker got his friend, Matthew Speedy, on board.
“It [is] interesting,” Speedy said on displaying his work at Saxbys. “We show work at [Tyler] pretty regularly, but it’s in a specific context where you know it’s set up for critique.”
Before he came across the opportunity to create art for Saxbys, Speedy, a graduate student of sculpture, had already started the pieces but finished them for the cafe.
“It kind of came from this weird place in the studio where I don’t have a specific direction,” he said. “I have all these things that I’ve made that either haven’t made it into a piece or aren’t going to.”
Speedy hopes to give the viewers of his pieces an intimate preview of the kind of work he usually produces, which are larger sculptures.
With the renovations, Saxbys also has a revamped menu, including new espresso and more food options.
“It’s just a very balanced, smooth espresso, something we’ve worked on for many many many years, something we’re really proud of,” Bayer said.
Saxbys also enhanced its grab-and-go items —the cafe added items like fruit and cheese cups, hummus and pita cups and avocado toast. They are also offering kombucha, which is a fermented tea.
“[The new menu] just gives students more choice and more variety,” said Phil Eng, a senior musical theater major who works at the shop. “There were a few unpopular items that were removed, but if somebody asks for it, we could still make it.”
The store also introduced new cold-brew coffee, which is brewed for 14 hours overnight.
“[The cold brewing] allows the natural flavors to stay in the coffee,” Bayer said. “A lot of it is burnt out in the [hot] brewing of coffee.”
The cold brew is offered in flavors like pumpkin spice, salted caramel, chai, sweet mint and milk and honey.
Bayer added that Saxbys will be looking to work with different Tyler students every semester.
Saxbys is trying to become more than just a place to buy coffee at Temple, Bayer said, and become a part of the community. The new changes were put in place to achieve that.
“We’ve developed a really deep relationship with Temple,” Bayer said. “We felt we owed it to the university and to the students to give them something unique, something different.”
Busola Towolawi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.