Home News
Colgate News


Coming soon: Saxbys at the Barge

By Barbara Brooks on June 16, 2014

Saxbys logoWhen Colgate and the Hamilton Initiative began operating the Barge Canal Coffee Company in 1996, their goal was to provide an alcohol-free social space for students and the Hamilton community while operating a viable business.

Now, the Barge has become such a success that premier coffee company Saxbys Coffee will build on this strong foundation and provide its expertise to renovate the café this summer. The revamped café, Saxbys at the Barge, will be open later this summer.

The Barge’s history as a village fixture makes it a natural fit for Saxbys, as the company tailors each café to reflect the surrounding community and is committed to community service.

With a company mission to “Make Life Better,” Saxbys ensures that each of its 30 cafés has an inviting atmosphere, high quality products, and above all, unparalleled guest engagement. The company currently enjoys a presence in eight college towns.

In Hamilton, Saxbys will preserve the Barge’s inclusive atmosphere and culture while investing in a significant renovation of the physical space at 37 Lebanon St.

Current manager Judy Schenk, who has been a crucial part of the Barge’s team since its opening, will continue in her role. Saxbys will work closely with Schenk and all future team members, who will serve Saxbys’ diverse menu, including the newly launched cold brew iced coffee, smoothies, and made-to-order sandwiches and soups.

“Saxbys is a great fit for the Barge’s Colgate and Hamilton clientele,” said Joanne Borfitz, vice president for community affairs and auxiliary services at Colgate. “And the company will be a valuable community partner. They will bring not only great coffee and a welcoming place to relax or socialize, they will help draw people to the village and into other local businesses. By choosing Hamilton for its next location, Saxbys pays us a great compliment.”

Nick Bayer, CEO and founder of Saxbys Coffee, said, “We could immediately tell that the Barge was a special place for the entire Hamilton community, and that’s something we work hard to achieve at every Saxbys café. We’re excited for the opportunity to revitalize the space as Saxbys at the Barge and to build on our experience to make the café all the more welcoming.”

Over nearly two decades, The Barge Canal Coffee Company has grown to become a community asset, offering coffee, teas, and popular food options. It has showcased local and national musicians and other artists and has been a comfortable home where senior citizens can read the day’s paper alongside college students and professors working on their laptops and toddlers playing with toys.

Saxbys is committed to maintaining this environment, and to hosting creative programming and evening hours.

The change of ownership coincides with the June 30 end of Colgate’s lease on the space.  The Barge will be closed for renovations from July 21 to August 11. Saxbys will honor all gift certificates and Barge tokens.


  • Amy Hayduke said:

    Just to clarify.. Saxbys hired Judy. She was offered a job with them before they bought the Barge. A corporate person told me that “Judy IS the Barge” and that she had agreed to be the manager of Saxbys at the Barge. One more detail- Saxbys was pursued and brought here by the Hamilton Initiative aka Colgate.

  • Nancy Ries said:

    I can find no information about whether Saxby’s offers fair trade, organic, shade grown or other ecologically and socially appropriate products. The lack of any info about this on their website suggests that that is not a priority for their company. In an era where sourcing is critically important for products like coffee beans, and for a college touting all of its green initiatives, this is hugely disappointing. If I am wrong, and this is untrue, maybe someone from admin or Saxby’s can correct me.

    The fact that they seem to have laid off one of Hamilton’s most lovable, socially-aware, adept employees just adds more bitter edge to this cup of java.

    I will take my business and hold my conversations elsewhere. Colgate’s non-transparent corporatization is speeding up mightily and it is very sad.

  • Frank Barrie '72 said:

    How disappointing that the Barge has not committed to serving coffee that is fair traded and organic, especially since there is a very fine local coffee roaster/business in nearby Syracuse, Café Kubal, that was interested in working out an arrangement with the Barge. I presume Colgate’s Upstate Institute would be disappointed with this arrangement too when there is a local business that could fill this niche. And I second Ferdinand’s comment concerning Colgate’s dining services. Hamilton College made the list of best colleges for food. Why not Colgate?

  • Ferdinand von Muench said:

    I am sad to see Colgate hand the Barge over to a chain business, even if it is a “nice” and socially responsible chain. With all our talk about entrepreneurship (and about individuality as a core value of liberal education), wouldn’t this be a place to put our money where our heart is and allow an individual or a small group of people to run the place in their unique way rather than according to a corporate formula? One way in which college towns differ from shopping malls is the number of small, quirky independent businesses they support (think of the wonderful “Hamilton Whole Foods”). In fact, I would love it if we could de-corporatize and diversify Colgate’s dining services and have local caterers have a go at it, instead of having a giant company like Sodexo run the show from far away…

  • Devon Skerritt '00 said:

    Couldn’t agree more with Stephen Solomon; Judy has been there forever and she knows what makes the Barge work. I think many appreciate the place for students to meet professors or each other, to study, perform, or see artwork; the families of Hamilton appreciate a place to bring their kids for family events and activities; and I know many Colgate offices probably appreciate meeting space there with each other and alums.
    My last question: does this mean no more Green Mountain Coffee and no more Colgate blend?

    • Tim O'Keeffe said:

      Hi Devon,
      I’m a tea guy, but I’ve asked and was told that the Barge has been serving Peet’s coffee for awhile now, not Green Mountain. Saxbys blends its own coffee, so that’s what they will be serving.


  • Stephen W Solomon '76, MAT '78 said:

    Yes, it’s time to see a renovation of our old friend The Barge. It was looking tired- from the scarred wood floors and cracked lino, its comfortable but shabby seating, its restrooms and service areas.

    So best of luck to the design and execution team in creating a more efficient and yet welcoming space! All I would ask is that Judy Schenk, Manager, be given full rein to carry over her sense of what made The Barge special. That would, of course, include The Barge’s principal theme- the canal boat crossing today’s Lebanon Street, in the context of preserving Hamilton’s unique character.

    I look forward to visiting the new Saxbys Barge in September.

    Go ‘gate!