Ike’s Place — the sandwich shop so beloved that it caused student protests when its first Stanford location closed two years ago — is back on campus in the form of Ike’s Press, a grab-and-go cafe at the McMurtry Building.
On Monday, Ike’s Press opened as a cold-sandwich “express” version of the sandwich chain, and as the first of a series of “pop-up” vendors that will rotate through the McMurtry Building’s Fetter Family Café.
Ike’s came to Stanford in 2009 and left in June 2014, after the University awarded its space in the Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center to Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE). Student opposition was quick and vocal: The Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) passed a resolution supporting Ike’s, while students calling themselves “Ike’s Army” campaigned for the shop to stay.
The following fall, Ike’s unsuccessfully bid on a space at Lathrop Library. Now, following a relatively quick bidding process spanning just a few months, Ike’s Press has returned — temporarily, at least, with a three-month lease.
Chain owner Ike Shehadeh said that the new location is an experiment for both Ike’s, which normally serves hot sandwiches, and Stanford, which is testing out the “pop-up” café concept.
But Shehadeh also said that he is interested in possibly extending the three-month lease at McMurtry, as well as potentially opening another full-service or express location elsewhere on campus. Shehadeh has already received Request for Proposal (RFP) emails from the University inviting Ike’s to apply for other locations.
For now, though, Ike’s Press will offer pre-made sandwiches, bakery items, coffee and other refreshments in its small space at McMurtry.
Business is off to a good start, according to Marco Antonio Madriz, the manager and co-owner of the new Stanford shop. Throughout the Monday opening, Madriz said, students came in not only to buy food but to say hello and congratulate Ike’s on its return.
Attempting to explain Ike’s popularity, students pointed to a medley of the chain’s signatures and quirks. Some cited Ike’s Dutch Crunch bread and the green lollipops that it includes for free with each meal. Others mentioned the shop’s special “Ike’s Dirty Secret Sauce,” or its outside-the-box sandwich names (Monday’s offerings included “Saved by the Bell” and “Kermit the Frog”).
But Madriz believes Ike’s friendly culture makes the chain stand out.
“We like to greet everybody with smiling face,” Madriz said. “It’s something that you can’t get at every regular stand around here.”
“And the sandwiches are good,” he added. “They’re amazing sandwiches.”
Shehadeh agreed, touting Ike’s care for its customers.
“We want to make sure you’re happy,” he said. “We’re not trying to just have you go through really quickly and take your money.”
Alex Muscat ’16, who grabbed lunch with a friend at Ike’s Press on Monday, recalled having “a parting meal with Ike’s” before its Science and Engineering Quad location closed. Like many students who protested the decision to replace Ike’s, Muscat was dismayed in 2014 by what he saw as “a sign of R&DE sort of homogenizing all of the food on campus.”
Will Funk ’16 also recalled the campus uproar that followed Ike’s closure. Funk described the controversy as, at heart, about concerns that R&DE did not adequately take student input into account.
However, while an R&DE-operated café replaced Ike’s, R&DE did not choose to close the sandwich shop. The final decision came from the Forbes Family Café Request for Proposal (RFP) committee, a group of six Stanford staff and two students working with the Science and Engineering Quad management.
Now a senior, Funk has watched many larger student movements pass through campus — but he reflected that the movement to save Ike’s stands out for its near-unanimity.
“It’s interesting… that when Ike’s closed it was the one big unifying movement that everyone agreed on within the student body,” he said, laughing.
Funk also said he appreciates the fact that the new Ike’s is located in Stanford’s “Arts District,” which includes the Cantor Arts Center and the Anderson Collection in addition to the McMurtry Building. Ike’s Press is less centrally located than its original full-service shop was in the Science and Engineering Quad, but Funk hopes Ike’s presence will encourage students to visit the Arts District.
“This is a part of campus that’s newer, that students haven’t necessarily explored as in-depth yet,” Funk said.
Although Muscat wishes Ike’s had returned as full-service location, both he and Funk liked the grab-and-go service and were happy to have the shop back on campus.
So was Shehadeh. He expressed gratitude to Stanford for letting him return, as well as to the students who pushed for Ike’s to stay two years ago.
“I was touched that they were that passionate about it,” he said, discussing “Ike’s Army.” “I appreciate the support, and I would love to see [their] name in Ike’s Army Sandwich.”
Contact Hannah Knowles at hknowles ‘at’ stanford.edu.