Knollcrest closing, but deli’s Ron hesitant to leave students


Photo by Yolanda Chow

Ron during the Knollcrest’s “50’s Diner” dinner this Wednesday, making a blazing buffalo wrap.

Knollcrest Dining Hall faces closure in a few years, but the much-loved man behind the deli, Ron “Blazin’ Buffalo Wrap” Trapp, is still looking for ways to stay connected with the students he has been serving for nearly two decades.

During his tenure at Knollcrest, Ron has seen Knollcrest become less popular. He notes that Knollcrest used to be more visited than Commons, but that has changed in recent years. As a result, the staff at Knollcrest has had to work harder to attract students. “We work real hard through the school year to bring students in, but then after the summer season we have to work hard again to get more kids to come back,” he said.

“We’ve seen the [the upcoming closure of Knollcrest] for a while now,” said Ron. “Commons always kept getting the renovations.” Every few years, there would be talk of closing Knollcrest. “Now, it’s finally happening.”

The impending closure hasn’t affected Ron’s work ethos, however. He’s always loved working with the Calvin student body.

Ron has fed, entertained and brightened Calvin students’ days since Feb. 3, 2000. His time at Calvin may come to a close, however, when the upcoming Commons Union project is completed, consolidating all on-campus dining to one central location and removing Knollcrest entirely.

Ron loved the environment at Knollcrest, and when the temporary staffing agency closed, he called to see if Knollcrest would hire him. They did.

From his first day at Calvin, Ron has always had a single mantra: “It’s all for the students. I love being able to come to work and be with my all friends. I didn’t imagine myself being here… but really, who else can say that [about their job]?”

Ron’s dedication to Calvin students has manifested itself in many ways: he has DJ-ed for dorm charity auctions, entertained students at Calvin-Hope basketball games, written cartoons for Chimes and, of course, made countless sandwiches.

He recollects the time when he first began working the Knollcrest deli. There wasn’t an official menu board, so the staff wrote one by hand and put it in a picture frame. The next year, they requested a printed menu — and they got it, except that all of the sandwich names were changed.

“Kids were asking about their favorite sandwiches, like ‘Where’d the buffalo wrap go?’” Ron said. “We got Chimes to print that the name had been changed because we got so many comment cards asking for it.”

One student, he recalls, would always bring a bottle of Red’s Hot Sauce to put on the buffalo wrap. “He’d always get the buffalo wrap, but with jalapeño cheddar, and then ask for the hot sauce on it.” Other students started to order the same sandwich, and one day, Ron replied to an order with the cheer “that’s right, a blazing buffalo wrap!”

“The students loved it,” he said. “So I started to do it every time. They’d request it on comment cards, and when I didn’t do it, they’d ask me where the cheer was.”

Ron’s connection with Calvin students have been the most memorable of his experiences.

“I love getting to meet 800 new friends each year,” he said.

Although it saddens him to see students leave — he says he sees less than 1 percent of students after they graduate — some retain contact with him. He’s even DJ-ed some students’ weddings.

Prior to Calvin, Ron worked at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids. He recalled freezing during his work shifts, thinking about finding different employment. “At [the Grand Plaza], it was only old people, rich people, or old rich people,” said Ron.

He wanted to work in an environment where he could connect with the people he served, so he decided to sign on with a temporary staffing agency, which placed him at Knollcrest for three weeks. His first assignment was line checker, and he says he immediately felt a difference.

“Here I was,” he said, “seeing every student’s name, every student’s face.”

Ron doesn’t know exactly what he is going to do once Knollcrest closes. He currently works on-and-off as a DJ and illustrates children’s books. Throughout his time at Knollcrest, he’s thought about leaving to develop those interests.

“What always brings me back, though, is the students. I… couldn’t imagine working without them. I’ve thought about putting in my two-week notice [many times], but the students always bring me back.”

Although he’s considered working at Commons Dining Hall after Knollcrest closes, he’s hesitant about the switch.

“During the snow days this year, some of us from Knoll were over at Commons, but I didn’t fit in over there, with the layout, with the management.” He’s not sure it will “work out” for him if the staff merges.

Ron does, however, want to “stick around if possible. I’ve even thought of doing campus security, just to stay with the students. They really anchor me here. Like I always say, it’s all for the students.”