Cafe O’Bear’s now Au Bon Pain Café and Bakery

By Nowshin Chowdhury

By the beginning of fall semester 2015, Café O’Bears was replaced with Au Bon Pain Café and Bakery, and Bumpers was replaced with Bear Cave. The Pioneer Food Court added Panda Express, Moe’s Southwest Grill and full service Chick-Fil-A, but the name for the food court remained the same.

“I think Au Bon Pain is a nice addition to the Oakland Center. Its welcoming name provides a French touch to a pretty simple café,” Oakland University junior, Bohdanna Cherstylo said.

Au Bon Pain offers fresh bakery every day at the Oakland Center.
Nowshin Chowdhury
Au Bon Pain offers fresh bakery every day at the Oakland Center.

Louis Kane founded Au Bon Pain in Boston, Massachusetts in 1978 with the goal to serve the community with fresh bread and croissants daily. Since then, the company has managed to expand to over 300 stores worldwide. The only two locations in Michigan are on the campuses of University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Oakland University.

“The O’Bears’ renovations were a result of the recent food contract bid letting process. Cafe O’Bears was built in 2003 and it was showing its age and the menu was limited due to the nature of the concept,” director of the Oakland Center, Richard Fekel said.

All baked goods in the café are made fresh in the Oakland Center every day. Oakland University sophomore Steven Tocco said that he likes Au Bon Pain for the fresh food it offers.

“I really like the idea of a bakery that bakes fresh bread daily better than an off-brand Starbucks,” Tocco said.

While some students adjusted to the new changes, others had difficulty with the foreign-sounding name.

“I wish I knew what ‘au bon pain’ means and how to pronounce it,” sophomore Natalia Boyko said. “I’ve been rejecting all the name changes at Oakland. I liked Café O’Bears.”

While referring to the new café, some students still call it Café O’Bears.

“I have come to still call the new café as ‘Café O’Bears’ because that is what I became accustomed to doing. The new name, I think, everyone could have gone without,” Oakland University sophomore Hanna Boussi said.

As part of renovations, the store size was reduced and more sitting space was made available outside. Inside the store, checkout lanes have been added for customer convenience.

“The previous configuration was a walk up to the counter set up which led to very long lines in the walk way and discouraged those guests that just wanted a quick cup of coffee or bakery item from getting their products,” Resident District Manager Mark McCormic said.

To the incoming freshman class, the café was just another place on campus they were unfamiliar with. Freshman Hannah Gorosh said she only knew of Café O’Bears because she has heard the upper class students calling the new café by the old name.

“I liked the punny name before the change. The new one is interesting because 80 percent of the people I hear say the world ‘pain’ like the English word and not French, which is hilarious at times,” Gorosh said.

The smell of fresh coffee, baked goods and deli sandwiches seems to have attracted great amount of customers flooding the lines on weekdays and some weekends from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.