Sunday, May 19, 2024

Big changes await Sundowner, Market


By Aleksandra Sidorova

The Sundowner as students know it will be no more — it will undergo a name change and total renovation by next spring. Campus Market will also bring a new shopping model to the SUNY system.

The changes are part of the series of renovations College Auxiliary Services and Chartwells announced in May 2023. Part of the plan has already been completed with a visual upgrade and name change to Cardinal Market, previously known as Campus Express. 

The whole project costs an estimated $6.5 million, including the work completed so far, CAS Director Catherine Keleher said. No revenue from student meal plans is used in construction — it is supported by SUNY and an anonymous donation to SUNY Plattsburgh.



The push to rename the Sundowner gained momentum after the college held its annual social justice teach-in for Black Solidarity Day on Nov. 6, 2023. 

One of the teach-in’s conference-style sessions explored the concept of sundown towns — towns that disallowed nonwhite people from remaining in them after sundown through local laws or intimidation and violence. Sundown towns were also sometimes called sunset towns or sundowner towns.

Sundown towns began around 1890 and continued well into the 20th century, though the effects of segregation still linger. More generally, the term refers to deliberate measures to exclude people of color from spaces or to make populations predominantly white. 

The club Black Onyx: The Black Student Union spearheaded the effort to unlink the campus’ most popular dining venue from a racist idea.

In Keleher’s opinion, the name Sundowner, which students refer to as Downer, sounds depressing.

BSU contributed Onyx Dine In to the name pool, paying homage to the club’s name as well as the onyx stone symbolizing strength and overcoming challenges, according to the club. Other name options are The Nest, Cardinal Hall, Plattsburgh Plaza, Burghy’s Bistro and Adirondack Eats. An “other” option allows students to suggest their own name similar to a write-in ballot.

Students can vote for the Sundowner’s new name in an online survey distributed by email.

The Sundowner has been at SUNY Plattsburgh since 1980, replacing a venue called the Pub. Back then, the Sundowner was a lounge featuring musical performances and alcoholic beverages. Students voted for that name, too, Keleher said.

“The motivation is to let students represent the most popular place to eat,” Keleher said.


Provided Catherine Keleher

An artistic render showcases a variety of seating arrangements, bright lighting and ordering in the middle of the space. College Auxiliary Services and Chartwells commissioned the render from the architecture and design firm Edge Architecture.



The updated Sundowner will include new floors, ceiling and layout. 

Students will no longer have to stand in line — instead, they will be able to order food for pickup from multiple stations at once through kiosks, which first made their debut last semester. 

Two new stations will be available at the new Sundowner: Wild Blue, serving sushi and poke bowls, and a versatile kitchen that will change options on a monthly basis based on students’ feedback.

The seating areas will be adjusted to be more social, featuring a space with a pergola and Adirondack chairs to hang out. The new arrangement will also accommodate club meetings, presentations and students who want to work on projects and assignments while eating. The lighting will be brighter to lift the mood.

“Food brings people together, and at this campus, we are always striving to do that,” Keleher said.

The Sundowner will be closed during the fall semester for renovations. To make up for a pillar of campus dining’s temporary closure, Chartwells will offer extended hours at Kent Cafe and Halal Shack and adjust Clinton Dining Hall to add Late Night and accept dining dollars.

Halal Shack will open in Burghy’s Den, which years ago featured a Subway and a breakfast food station. 

Another idea Chartwells proposed is hosting pop-up food stations with some possible options being wings, loaded fries and Indian cuisine.



The campus convenience store may have gotten a facelift last semester, but the most monumental changes are yet to come. 

By the end of summer, Cardinal Market will feature a Starbucks location complete with the brand’s design and complete drink menu. Food items will be set and supplied by Chartwells.

SUNY Plattsburgh will also be the first school in the SUNY system to implement Amazon’s AI-powered “Just Walk Out” technology. When customers walk in, they scan an app on their phone at the electronic entry gates, grab what they want and walk out without having to go through a check-out process. 

Two components work together for the “Just Walk Out” premise to work. The fixtures displaying goods have a weight sensor that records what is taken or placed on shelves. AI cameras installed throughout the store track customers’ movement, taking note of who is buying the item. Unlike security cameras, the AI cameras don’t record faces and instead pictures customers as moving dots.

Linking the weight and camera data allows the system to charge the correct amount to the right person. However, to avoid being charged, students need to place an item back on the appropriate shelf.

Keleher said the idea came from a visit to the University of Pittsburgh — another school Chartwells provides dining services to.

Some of Cardinal Market’s area is blocked off to prepare for construction. For both Cardinal Market and the Sundowner, construction is set to begin after the semester ends.

“I’m just so excited that we’re almost to the point where we’re breaking ground,” Keleher said of the Sundowner and Cardinal Market renovations as a whole.

Provided by Catherine Keleher
An artistic render shows a view from the back of Cardinal Market, with electronic gates at the entrance and a cafe section to the right. College Auxiliary Services and Chartwells commissioned the render from the architecture and design firm Edge Architecture.
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