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Following 'Study' article, Mad Hatters makes changes

Whoever said people just read The Chronicle for the daily crossword puzzle?

 The staff of The Mad Hatter's Cafe and Bake Shop certainly don't. In fact, not only do they read the paper, but they also react--and quite rapidly, too--to student feedback voiced in these pages.

 While students, faculty and staff were relaxing and resting during winter break, the management of the Ninth Street eatery was busy making construction changes. More than 200 power outlets were installed and its wireless internet connection was upgraded for a stronger connection.

 These modifications were inspired by a Chronicle story that ran during reading period entitled, "Oh, The Places You'll Study," which revealed favorite spots--of which Mad Hatter's was one. The restaurant's owners said they realized the value of its student customers and wanted to act quickly to further improve its reputation as a haven for studying.

 "It's plain and simple. We saw the article and the next day I called our general contractor and an electric company to come and assess [construction] costs," said Mad Hatter's co-owner Jason Balius. "Even though I talk to students and customers as much as I can, I would never have done these changes if not for the article."

 The approximately $8,000 worth of additions and upgrades took two and a half weeks to complete. While the restaurant had provided sockets and wireless internet connection before, students are now able to enjoy a more powerful connection--even from outside tables--and plenty of laptop sockets, which were in demand during peak study times like finals week.

 Junior Lindsey Paluska, who began going to Mad Hatter's to study during her sophomore year and studies there every day during finals week, said these amenities, in addition to good atmosphere and free coffee refills, are the reasons she keeps going back.

 "There aren't enough outlets at the [Bryan Center] and Rick's [Diner]," she said. "I choose Mad Hatter's over Barnes and Noble and Jason's Deli because they have wireless and outlets."

 Mad Hatter's may soon find competition from its neighbors Francesca's Dessert Cafe, which provides outlets in its new wing, and Ninth Street newcomer Blue Coffee Company, which offers both wireless and outlets.

 But for the time being, Mad Hatter's is enjoying increased business and the pleasure of accommodating the Duke community.

 "It was great to be acknowledged [in the article]. We want [Mad Hatter's] to be a place for students to hang out, but we also want to maintain a good relationship with students, faculty and staff," Balius said. "We want to foster the education process, and hope these changes help this to be a place for them to come study and work."

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