Public Hall, an Aggieville coffee shop popular with students, closed its doors for good on Dec. 30, 2022, after nearly four years in operation. This announcement, originally released on Public Hall’s Instagram, came as a shock to many K-State students who frequented the coffee shop, Kiva Schulze said.
“I loved going and studying there, and I would go there a lot on coffee dates with my friends,” Schulze, junior in nutrition and health, said.
Simone Buescher, freshman in architecture, said she never noticed anything in Public Hall that could’ve warranted their closing.
“I really liked the atmosphere that they had going on there. It was a good place to study,” Buescher said. “I was surprised to hear about them closing, I thought they were doing really well.”
Ciara Waugh, Acme Global Industries HR and Operations Director, said the decision to close Public Hall had nothing to do with financial issues.
“It definitely wasn’t due to lack of patrons,” Waugh said. “We were constantly full and busy with people, studiers especially.”
Waugh said keeping Public Hall open took “too much time and energy” since Acme also owns other Aggieville businesses such as Super Cub, Acme Gift, Acme Local, Orange Sky Yoga, Thread, and The Dusty Bookshelf.
“It ultimately came down to the fact that we overextended ourselves,” Waugh said. “We have a lot of businesses, and with all of the things happening in Aggieville right now, we need to make sure that we’re focusing on the stores that have been here for a really long time.”
Waugh said it is hard to run a restaurant without committing to it completely, and with all of Acme’s other businesses, this was impossible.
“Truthfully speaking, with a restaurant or coffee shop, the owner should basically live and breathe that space … unless you find a killer manager, but we were never able to find a person who fit that mold and had the experience we needed to fully run that shop,” Waugh said.
Schulze said she is sad about Public Hall’s closing, and will miss their food and atmosphere.
“I loved the Hippie Sandwich, it was always so good,” Schulze said. “I was disappointed to hear about them closing, but mostly I’m upset I won’t get to experience Public Hall again.”
Waugh said there is a solution for those who enjoyed Public Hall coffee.
“The exact same coffee and tea that folks grew to love at Public Hall, they can still get at The Dusty Bookshelf,” Waugh said. “We will be introducing more snacks soon … We are doing away with the no-food policy in [The Dusty Bookshelf], because we want folks to know that they can come in with their lunch, grab a coffee and sit there to study.”
All employees of Public Hall were guaranteed other job opportunities once it closed.
“We offered all of them a position at any of the other stores that we have,” Waugh said. “A couple of them are at Varsity Donuts, and the rest of them are all at The Dusty Bookshelf. Everybody found a new home.”
Schulze said she worries that The Dusty Bookshelf won’t offer the same experience as going to Public Hall.
“Unless The Dusty Bookshelf gets all the same food items as Public Hall, I’ll more likely go somewhere else,” Schulze said. “It won’t be the same as Public Hall.”
On Jan. 16, Happy Hippie Studios announced via Instagram that they would be taking over the space that used to be Public Hall and converting it into a “Happy Hippie Health Bar.”
The branch manager for the Manhattan location of Happy Hippie, Marcy Hammel, said April 1 is its tentative opening date.
“It kind of depends on the equipment and how fast we can get what we need done inside Public Hall,” Hammel said.
Hammel said Manhattan residents should be excited about Happy Hippie because it’s unique and provides healthier options for Aggieville patrons.
“[Happy Hippie] is a great fit to be a next-door neighbor to Orange Sky Yoga because they focus on health foods like acai bowls and smoothie bowls,” Waugh said. “This is the best opportunity we have to let [Public Hall] go and give the keys to another local entrepreneur.”