When I was in high school applying for colleges, one question I always asked on tours was “What is the relationship between the college and the town?” A lot of the colleges I applied to, like Oberlin, were in small college towns. Town-gown relations can be tense or even hostile at their worst, and going to a school that had a positive relationship with the town was an important factor to me when I was deciding which school to go to. When I toured Oberlin, I was assured that the town-gown relations here are good, and I have found this to be the case. But I have found it to be especially true in the case of Blue Rooster Bakehouse, a local bakery and my favorite business in Oberlin.
When I was a first- and second-year at Oberlin, I went to Blue Rooster every Friday afternoon with my best friend Liv (and sometimes other times too to do homework). The baked goods were good, but I soon came to be on a first-name basis with some of the people who worked there. Whenever I walked in, the woman working the desk on Friday afternoons would heat up the tea kettle as soon as she saw me, because I always had tea with whatever baked good I bought (usually a salted caramel pretzel brownie or a custard berry tart). We would talk awhile as I tried to decide what pastry to buy, and it filled me with a warm, happy, fuzzy feeling knowing that I was known. The last normal semester I had at Oberlin was Fall of 2019. I remember going to Blue Rooster after I finished finals week with my two friends who are now my housemates and getting a large slice of cake. I said goodbye to the women who worked the front because I was heading abroad and wouldn’t be back for almost a year, and they genuinely seemed both sad I wouldn’t be around and excited for my approaching adventure. They always wished us safe travels and a good break before we left for the holidays. Going to Blue Rooster made me feel like, in a way, I was going to visit a family member. The bakery has always had a really homey, Midwestern vibe that has made me feel so welcomed.
When the pandemic happened, I was worried about Blue Rooster and was sad that I wouldn’t be able to actually go inside and eat a treat by the fireplace or front window and watch people walking in downtown Oberlin. However, I soon learned that Blue Rooster was doing online orders with delivery and also planning to reopen for in-person pick-up. At the beginning of the semester, my whole house ordered Blue Rooster treats, and two of our favorite employees, who know everyone in my house by name and very well, came to deliver our treats so they could wave at us from a distance after not having seen us for several months! Our two fave employees came by our house a lot to deliver the various things we ordered for ourselves (or that our families ordered for us). It was so sweet of them to come to deliver to our house, because there was always a personal touch that created a tiny feeling of normalcy during a very weird semester.
There’s one particular memory from last semester that fills my heart to the brim! On my sister’s birthday in early October, I had ordered some goodies to be delivered because I wanted to eat a treat while facetiming my family, so I wouldn’t feel left out while they were eating cake. My order had included an apple fritter, among some other things that I had gotten for my housemates. However, when I got the box delivered and opened it, I realized that the apple fritter was not there! I messaged Blue Rooster’s Facebook page and they responded right away apologizing and telling me they could get me a different treat instead or send it to me tomorrow. I explained it was my sister’s birthday today and told them not to worry about it. BUT THEN I got a personal text from one of the women who works at Blue Rooster (my housemate had given her my number)! She apologized and not only brought me the apple fritter the next day, but also brought me a free surprise chocolate cupcake with a candle in it less than an hour later, to make up for the tiny mistake she had made with my order. This gesture went above and beyond anything I wanted or expected, and I felt so cared for! It was such a prime example of the positive relationships that town members and college students can build together, and in that moment, I was more thankful than usual for Blue Rooster and the people who work there.
Now my housemates and I go every weekend to Blue Rooster to buy treats through a plexiglass wall, sometimes multiple times a weekend. Even saying hi to the people who work there for a few minutes is a bright spot during my day, and I think that’s true for them as well. Although I’m sad that I can’t spend time at Blue Rooster in the way that I used to, I’m so glad I’m still able to support this local business and maintain the relationships I’ve cultivated with the people who work there over the past four years. I came for the treats, but I stayed for the people. And if that doesn’t tell you about good town-gown relations in Oberlin, I don’t know what will.