Columbus State University student Erica Bussey says CSU's new Rankin Den and Dining is much more than a place to eat.
The health science major from Cuthbert, Ga., now in her third year at the school, said students come to study, write papers and do online classes.
"It is a place to just come and relax. I love the lighting," she said. "It is a really good atmosphere."
The campus restaurant/store opened last week in the location on the corner of First Avenue and 10th Street, which formerly housed the Rankin Deli.
It replaces the Den Market and Deli on Broadway. That location will soon be home to a new Japanese restaurant.
CSU Director of Enterprise Development David Mitchell explained that the move to a new location was needed. CSU now has about 400 students living downtown.
"The old den had reached capacity," Mitchell said. Of the new den, he said, "We totally redid the space but left a lot of the old character."
He said it is a "different animal" from the former den. It is a place where students will want to spend time.
There is seating for 115 in the campus restaurant indoors. Seating also is available outdoors.
"It is spacious," Shermaine Johnson said. The student from Kennesaw, Ga,, a junior in sociology, doesn't have to travel far for her meals. She lives in an apartment above the restaurant.
"This is really nice," Johnson said. "One big difference is that on campus you can't take food out of the eating places but here you can."
The business is operated for the school by Aramark, a food service management company.
Bill Rodimon, a chef for 32 years who has operated coffee shops in North Carolina and a restaurant in LaGrange, Ga., is the manager.
"We've been busy, busy, busy," Rodimon said, as students poured through the door Wednesday morning.
He said a lot of downtown workers are not only eating at the business, but also taking advantage of the store in the back.
"We just have a lot of stuff you can't get anywhere else down here," he said.
The store features snacks, drinks, milk, frozen dinners, cartons of ice cream, medications, vitamins, toiletries, brushes, sewing kits, cleaning products and other things.
The business is close to the Springer Opera House and the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts. "We have gotten business from some theatergoers," Rodimon said.
The serving line offers a hot meal, featuring one entree and two vegetables for $7.50. Special orders, such as hamburgers and sandwiches, also can be made, and there is a salad bar. The restaurant does catering.
"We have a good variety," Rodimon said. On Wednesday, the main entrees for lunch were spaghetti, smoked sausage and fried pork.
Rodimon said the restaurant, which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, is open seven days a week.
It is open from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, though food is no longer served after 10:30 p.m. On Friday, the business is open 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. On the weekend, it is open 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.