A New Face at the Bagel Cafe


Gardner Thors '20

Suki at the bagel cafe.

Since the departure of Cheryl, who was endearingly known as the “bagel lady,” Suki Johnson has taken over at the Schoolhouse cafe, and is quickly mastering the art of running the bagel stand. Since the cafe in the Forum opened four years ago, students in all forms have been taking advantage of this resource, and Cheryl’s mastery of cream-cheese spreading, as well as her love for postcards, was well known.

Suki hopes to create meaningful connections with students, as Cheryl did when she ran the cafe. Alex Kogler ’19 said, “I miss Cheryl a lot, especially since she had been here since the beginning of the stand, but I also think Suki has done a great job of taking over.” With her smiles and warm greetings, Suki brightens the day or passerbys.

Suki’s success at the bagel stand stems from her 24-year experience in working at school settings and her love for establishing ties with students. Previously, she worked as the food service nutrition manager at a K -12 school in California. When getting a bagel, students are often faced with a string of friendly questions from Suki, ranging from where they are from to their favorite bagel flavor. She greets everyone who comes by, and her care manifests itself in little ways. Julia Lin ’22 recounted, “Once, I had a meeting with a teacher during lunch time, with only ten minutes left, I sped through my lunch. [Suki] looked at me shovel down my food, and said, ‘It hurts me looking at you treat yourself like this.’”

Suki is originally from Hong Kong. She moved to the United States more than twenty years ago when her Swedish husband set up a new business in California. Spending time with the students at the school in California allowed Suki to learn both the English language and American culture in a fun and unconventional setting. When asked about the difficulty of switching to a completely different lifestyle and language, she smiled and answered that she is “still learning.” Suki has also relied on reading extensively to master this language.

Recently, her husband was relocated to Massachusetts, which brought Suki to the Circle. When she’s not working at Groton, she mostly stays at home. Keen on learning to cook outside of a school setting, Suki watches culinary videos, finding recipes which she attempts to recreate for her family. Suki is especially interested in traditional Filipino and Chinese dishes. With her expertise, she gives advice to the Groton Dining Hall about making more authentic Chinese recipes such as dumplings, fried rice, and steamed chicken with ginger.

At Groton, Suki loves observing the range of personalities in the student body, and establishing close relationships with students. While she sometimes finds it a challenge to incorporate student preferences into her preparations of bagels, she has found the work easier as she as she has gotten to know the students better. Some popular options include asiago with cream cheese, french toast with extra cream cheese, and the list goes on.

Suki’s positivity cheers students up when they come to get bagels. Zenande Mdlulu ’21 said, “I think Suki is so sweet. She remembers my bagel order and starts to make it as soon as she sees me walk up to the stand.” When you see Suki around, whether it be during conference for cookies or during a quick stop for a bagel, be sure to greet the new “bagel lady” with a big smile!