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Vondy’s biggest fans take their community online

The meme depicts Bernie Sanders looking confidently into the camera, mouth ajar, with the caption, “I am once again asking for a large iced oat milk latte.” Above the photo, in bold: “Walking into Vondy for the 17th time in a day.” 

The edit of the viral screenshot from a Sanders campaign video is only one of the many memes and jokes exchanged in the People of Vondy Facebook group. 

Before classes moved online because of COVID-19, countless students, faculty members and other members of the Duke community stopped by Saladelia Cafe at Von der Heyden Pavilion—popularly known as Vondy—every day. Enthusiastic regulars who think of the cafe as their second home make up People of Vondy.

Junior Lily Coll, the creator of the Facebook group, wrote in an email that as People of Vondy grew, she has noticed “a larger sense of community” amongst the frequenters of the cafe.

“It’s nice to have friendly faces around when cramming for that long research paper or any other boring school work,” Coll wrote. “There are more relationships with the baristas in Vondy and the students, which I find extremely valuable on a college campus.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic sent Coll and her fellow Vondy regulars home for the semester, the strength of their community has been put to the test. But some of the cafe’s biggest fans—some of whom even have stickers on their laptops and water bottles that say ‘People of Vondy’—say they’ve been keeping the spirit of the Vondy alive while in quarantine.

Staying active

The administrators of the Facebook Group, Coll and fellow junior Lizzy Kramer, are finding ways to keep the People of Vondy connected outside of their favorite cafe.

Although a “Zoom Vondy power hour” with the entire group has proven difficult to schedule, Kramer wrote in an email that she has participated in “morning coffee runs,” where some of the members drink coffee and catch up on Zoom with Vondy backgrounds.

Group members continue to share memes, send birthday shoutouts and exchange recipes to recreate their favorite Vondy pastries, though not as frequently as they did before the quarantine, Coll wrote.

“The Facebook group hasn’t seen as much activity, but we know everyone is craving their go to orders and Dixie cups of water,” Coll wrote.

“I truly didn’t expect this group to stay active during quarantine, but I am so happy it has,” Kramer wrote.

Being your own barista

Without their favorite baristas, the People of Vondy have tried to recreate their go-to beverages at home. However, junior Catherine Howard, a moderator of the Facebook page, wrote in an email that her attempts at Vondy’s cold brews and matcha lattes “just don’t compare.”

Coll’s go-to morning order is an iced coffee with oat milk––sometimes hot, depending on the weather––with pumpkin bread or yogurt. At home, she’s had to make do with her “esteemed coffee maker,” sometimes taking a bike ride to her local coffee shop when the weather permits.

“I dabbled in making cold brew at home but I did give up after a few days of manual labor and weird looks from my dad,” she wrote.

Kramer’s mother tried baking her daughter’s favorite Vondy chocolate chip scones, but Kramer wrote that it was just “not the same.” 

What Facebook can’t replicate

Coll recalls the sounds of the espresso machine and heavy foot traffic in the cafe, which are much better distractions than loud siblings and Instagram notifications. 

“I miss scheduling times to meet people for coffee and group projects, having a common space that people like to meet in. Vondy makes everything an event, even if it’s just doing homework,” she wrote.

Junior Anna Markey also misses the presence of her friends while studying at Vondy.

“I like having a bit of ambiance, ‘white noise,’ and a steady flow of coffee when studying, and at home, I usually study in coffee shops,” Markey wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “With the lockdown though, I've been studying at home, and it's just not the same. I miss being distracted by my friends and not by my family.”

Coll agreed that though friends can be distracting, “it helps to have conversations as study breaks rather than scrolling through Instagram for a ridiculous amount of time.”

“You would think out of the presence of my friends and constant snacking of Vondy, I would get more done...you're wrong,” Kramer wrote. “Studying at home is just not the same; instead of other people distracting me, I just distract myself, which is far less interesting.”

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