In 1983, biology major Chris Lueck became a bartender at the café, where he was taught to shovel ice quietly and minimize noise at the register. Now the bar manager, Lueck shows new student hires the same tricks to avoid disrupting the music and customer experience.
After working at the Cactus for more than three decades, Lueck says things are “strangely very similar” to when he first started — especially during the daytime, when the café functions as a hangout space for many on campus.
The Cactus “has often been described as a decompression zone on campus for a lot of people,” Lueck says. “UT is wound up pretty tightly with the curriculum and social structure, but when you come in here, you can relax a little bit and be more like yourself.”
Economics lecturer Brian Trinque has frequented the café since the same year Lueck started serving drinks. In ‘83, Trinque needed the background noise to do his graduate school work. Now, he holds office hours there multiple days a week because, he says, he likes the effect the space has on his students.
“I’m in my office when I have to be at my computer,” Trinque says. “But if I can relocate to a less sterile environment, I always will. This is the best place for sure.”
But the Cactus isn’t just a space to get work done, Trinque says: “I’ve spent many hours with dear friends solving the world’s problems here. There is definitely a special feeling of belonging.”