Alfred University News

Root beer floats for graduating art students endure as a tradition at The Collegiate

John Ninos, owner of The Collegiate Restaurant, began hanging photographs of students graduating from Alfred University’s School of Art and Design, New York College of Ceramics, in 1992, when his parents, John and Angie, Ninos were still running the family restaurant.

In 2010, he started a new tradition, working with Dan Napolitano, Alfred University’s then-Director of Student Activities: An annual reception for graduating SOAD students, featuring root beer floats. The Collegiate hosted its most recent Root Beer Float reception Thursday, April 23. Forty-six senior BFA students are expected to graduate this month.

Good traditions ought to continue, Ninos said this week, reflecting on his years of owning and operating Alfred’s iconic family diner, known locally as The Jet. The restaurant is for sale, and he and his wife, Shelly, have been considering offers from individuals and parties interested in buying the business. So far, however, they haven’t seen a proposal that would preserve what they consider the best features of the family business.

“We hope whoever eventually takes it over will continue its traditions,” he said.

Inside, the Jet is packed with evidence of the Ninos family’s high regard for tradition. Old fraternity paddles hang on the walls, along with a fresh batch of Alfred University senior art students’ portraits. Ceramic art pieces “are all over the place,” Ninos observes, crafted by former faculty members of the School of Art and Design, past restaurant employees studying at Alfred University, and of course scores of past art students.

When his parents were alive, Ninos says, his father had an amazing ability to remember the faces of past students who would return to The Jet to say hello. “My father could see someone from 30 or 40 years earlier and still remember them.”

Memories and friendships are as much a part of The Jet as its coffee, served in traditional ceramic mugs.

“It’s all about the meeting of people who come in here,” Ninos says. “They become family. That’s how we do business. It a family diner.”