By Slade van Rooyen
The Stellenbosch University (SU) campus has been a hive of activity since the start of the second semester, which saw a return to fully in-person lectures and a revival of campus life. This has led to increased foot traffic in the Neelsie Student Centre, which underwent several noticeable changes in recent months.
The new additions to the student centre include Sweetbeet, Jacks Bagels, Sausage Saloon, the Candy Shop and Moody Blue. My Brew Coffee Roastery expanded their premises, and Crumbs & Cream, a gelateria offering ice-cream sandwiches and freshly baked cookies, is presently under construction.
“The Neelsie is constantly exploring tenant additions to complement the tenant mix. We will look for a replacement when a tenant’s contract ends and is not renewed,” said Petro Mostert, a communications specialist in SU’s operations and finance department.
“In some cases, the tenants upgrade their own shops and spaces, whereas the university will, from time to time, refurbish or renovate the general areas of the complex that it is responsible for.”
Mostert emphasised that “the management of the centre reviews and refresh[es] its tenant offering and composition regularly to ensure client satisfaction”.
Maddy Basson, a third-year BA (Law) student, mentioned that she is excited about the fact that Sweetbeet “is providing vegan options, which the Neelsie was seriously lacking”.
“The Jacks Bagels is unreal and will always have a special place in my heart,” she continued.
Pierré Müller, an LLM student, said, “I like [the upgraded Neelsie] because it’s new. But it’s also more expensive. . . . Now I don’t go to the Neelsie all that much anymore. The Neelsie is a student centre and must have student offerings.”
Reevin Hermann, a fourth-year BCom (International Business) student who, together with Thomas Janisch and Ronan Morris, paid homage to the student centre in their 2021 single, “Neelsie Coffee”, was more tempered in his reaction to the upgrades.
“Right now, it’s very half and half,” said Hermann, before going on to detail his disappointment with the Neelsie’s new aesthetic, which he describes as “a mismatch”.
“You either have to holistically rebrand or at least if you’re going step-by-step, you have to do it in a cohesive way,” he continued.
“There’s something to be said for variety, but at least, have that variety [together with] a common image.”
When asked whether the Neelsie continues to cater primarily to students, Mostert stated that most visitors to the Neelsie fall within this demographic. She also made reference to the conversion of the erstwhile Pulp Cinema into a “multi-purpose venue”, known as Neelsie Cinema, which is managed by SU’s Central Events and Conferencing Office.
“Apart from regular screenings of films by the Pulp Film Society, the venue is also available to rent for other functions, conferences, and events,” said Mostert.
In explaining the process followed by the Neelsie management when selecting new tenants, Mostert said, “The management of [the centre] uses a set of selection criteria to ensure that they host the correct tenant mix to make the centre feasible and operate optimally.”