Section: Features

Beloved Friday Cafe brought Kenyon closer to its neighbors

Beloved Friday Cafe brought Kenyon closer to its neighbors

Mayor Leeman Kessler sits with one of his children at the Friday Cafe. | SARA HALEBLIAN

One does not need to spend a lot of time in the Parish House to feel at home; the two-story house, located on Brooklyn Street and operated by Kenyon’s Harcourt Parish Episcopal Church, boasts a cozy porch and welcoming interior. Various campus organizations, including Greek societies and interfaith communities, occasionally use the space for informal gatherings.

Many current Kenyon students might be surprised to hear that, for over three decades, the Parish House used to grab Gambier’s attention nearly every Friday, attracting a large portion of the campus to its front porch. Marked by familiar ringing resonating from the bell tower, the end of the school week also arrived with the promise of Friday Cafe.

The Cafe was a midday, multi-course lunch provided to Kenyon students, faculty and Mount Vernon residents. The beloved tradition was co-founded by Peggy Turgeon and the late Joyce Klein, longtime friends and wives of Kenyon professors. Well-known for their impressive original meals and homemade whipped cream, Turgeon and Klein’s Friday Cafe was attended by eager participants every week.

Friday Cafe, considered by many to be just as significant a tradition as the First-Year Sing, hosted an “unforgettable” vegetarian menu and served as a space for the Kenyon and greater Mount Vernon community to interact. In fact, it was not uncommon to see Kenyon alumni, Wiggins Street Elementary teachers and even the mayor of Mount Vernon enjoying themselves over a homemade meal. The atmosphere of Friday Cafe was vibrant and spirited: In addition to major life announcements and spontaneous dates, the weekly lunch was also an ideal scene to bring visiting family members and friends.

Both Turgeon and Klein were experienced chefs and caterers who never failed to impress the community with their homemade vegetarian dishes. The two women planned the menus at the beginning of each semester to ensure a variety of options and recipes. For a small fee of $6 or $7 (which was later donated to charities), those who attended Friday Cafe feasted on several homemade delicacies from quiche to Georgian cheese bread. As their reputations for delectable cuisine grew, Klein and Turgeon’s professional catering careers soared; they were asked by various academic departments to cater official events on campus.

Although Friday Cafe is fondly associated with Kenyon’s Parish House, it was not where the tradition began. According to the Kenyon Alumni Bulletin, Friday Cafe originated as a “semi-annual ‘dessert-only’” event in the “defunct” Alumni House over a half-century ago, an area on campus currently occupied by the Kenyon Inn. Eventually, Friday Cafe’s menu and reputation expanded, and the tradition moved to the Parish House in the late 1980s.

Currently, meals are served occasionally at the Parish House, but Kenyon’s Fridays are no longer marked by the Cafe. Joyce Klein passed away on Feb. 4, 2019; the Kenyon community held a special Friday Cafe at the Parish House in her memory on May 10, 2019. Touched by Klein and Turgeon’s hospitality, those who had the opportunity to attend Friday Cafe remember it fondly.

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