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Tea Room receives gift for renovations

The Beamish-Munro Hall cafe received a $70,000 gift from the Class of Sc'82 to renovate the space.

  • [Isabel Hazan (Sc'20), Head Manager of The Tea Room, updates the sign. (Photo: Queen's Alumni)]
    Isabel Hazan (Sc'20), Head Manager of The Tea Room, updates the sign. (Photo: Queen's Alumni)
  • [Renovations underway at The Tea Room (Photo: Queen's Alumni).]
    Renovations underway at The Tea Room (Photo: Queen's Alumni).
  • [Ms. Hazan holds up drafted plans for The Tea Room renovations. (Photo: Queen's Alumni)]
    Ms. Hazan holds up drafted plans for The Tea Room renovations. (Photo: Queen's Alumni)

Most members of the Class of Sc’82 have never visited The Tea Room, a student-run, environmentally friendly coffee shop that opened in 2006. It might come as a surprise that members of Sc’82 has announced a class gift of $70,000 to renovate the cafe in Beamish-Munro Hall, but Class President Don MacDiarmid says the gift is about engineering alumni supporting engineering students.

“If The Tea Room is important to students, it is important to my classmates,” says Mr. MacDiarmid.

Sc'82 has established two funds to support current engineering students. One is an endowment for student awards, while the other supports special projects to enhance the undergraduate education of engineering students. The class decided to support The Tea Room after a recommendation from the Dean of Engineering’s office and a presentation from The Tea Room staff.

“We see our endowment as funding the extras that might not be covered by regular faculty spending,” says Mr. MacDiarmid. “The students made a very polished funding request document that I circulated to about 25 members of my class for input. They were universal in their support.”

Sc’82 Reunion Co-ordinator Cathy Ella was on the Engineering Society Board of Directors from 2002 to 2008. She remembers The Tea Room founder Michele Romanow (Sc'07, MBA'08), who now stars on the hit CBC TV show Dragons’ Den, pitching The Tea Room and the board supporting the venture.

“The Tea Room is a great student enterprise and Sc’82 is very pleased to contribute to its success,” says Ms. Ella.

The Tea Room is a socially conscious cafe that proves an environmentally friendly model can be profitable. All of The Tea Room’s products and packaging are 100 per cent compostable and the company plants trees to offset its carbon footprint, achieving carbon neutral status in 2015. It was the first zero-consumer-waste-certified cafe in North America, according to The Tea Room Head Manager Isabel Hazan (Sc’20).

“The Tea Room is a symbol of entrepreneurship within Queen’s,” she says. “Our mission is to make sustainable choices accessible to students. How do we do it? We make a sustainable choice as easy as deciding where to buy your coffee.”

The cafe is entirely run by students from all faculties, with the five managers and 55 staff. This model provides financial support to students during the school year.

The Sc’82 donation will allow The Tea Room to serve more customers by adding an extra cashier station and relocating the side bar to divert the traffic away from the entrance. The renovations will also improve the flow of operations behind the bar, making service more efficient and consistent. With the design changes implemented, the business will be able to keep up with its increasing popularity on campus and The Tea Room’s mission can reach more students at Queen’s. 

“We are humbled by the donation,” says Ms. Hazan. “When we first discovered that the Sc’82 alumni were interested in funding The Tea Room’s renovations, we were extremely excited – it validated our mission of combining environmental responsibility with community education and financial sustainability. The alumni’s generous donation is making it possible for us to reach more customers and serve them optimally while making a positive impact on campus. We are extremely grateful for the class’ enthusiasm about The Tea Room, and we are eager to watch the renovations come to fruition throughout the summer.”

Donations can be made to the various Sc’82 funds through the Give To Queen’s website.

This story was originally published on the Queen's Alumni website.