On September 27, 1996, the Barge Canal Coffee Co. on Lebanon Street opened for business and subsequently became a living room for the Colgate and Hamilton communities. The Barge shares a deep connection with its community and one of the people responsible for fostering that relationship is Judy Schenk. As the coffee shop’s manager, she has been part of the Barge since day one.
“My neighbor, Burgie Howard, the director of Residential Life at the time, wanted to know if I wanted to run my own coffee shop for Colgate. After I got over some of my own doubts, I interviewed and I got the job. That was the start of the Barge,” said Schenk.
Schenk admits that being the manager of the Barge is her dream job. As manager, she is responsible for doing it all. There is not one aspect of the Barge that she is not involved with. She oversees employees, takes care of the customers and manages the daily goings-on of the coffee shop.
“I work side by side with my staff. I manage. I make people smile. I teach my staff to be team players. I get here between 5:30 and 5:45 a.m., five days a week, and stay until about 3:00 or 3:30 pm. I am here as much as I am needed as the manager,” she said.
The Barge is responsible for bringing together individuals from all walks of life by providing a popular gathering spot for village residents and Colgate faculty, staff and students. It sponsors a variety of events, ranging from open mic nights to live music to student performances. There is, on average, live music playing three times a week at the Barge, and all of the entertainment is free of charge.
“I love the support of the local community. I enjoy the social atmosphere and feel like that is a huge component of why people do come in here. I love the conversation. This is a community living room, and I love hearing what is going on with the Colgate campus, and in and around the town,” said Schenk.
Over the years, the Barge has grown and changed and Schenk has witnessed it all. “It has grown from just coffee to exciting drinks, sandwiches, soups, live free entertainment and a study place for students” she said, “but the atmosphere of the Barge is still the same.”
One of Schenk’s fondest memories at the Barge was when she was having a cup of coffee with Peter King, a writer for Sports Illustrated. She recalled, “His daughter graduated from Colgate and was an employee of the Barge. He would mention the Barge in his columns. At first I didn’t know what was happening, and then all of a sudden our coffee sales went through the roof, and then I realized he had put us in his column.”
The Barge is an integral part of the Hamilton and Colgate communities. It is a place where people can relax, catch up with each other, enjoy live entertainment or just hang out. Schenk’s dedication to the Barge and to members of the community is part of the reason why the Barge is such a great place. Plus, their coffee isn’t half bad.