Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Daytripping in Boston: Food Adventures

Last week, I blogged about my road tripping adventure to Portland with my co-workers at Harvard Student Agencies. Apart from the breath-taking views of the waters and the historic, grand lighthouses that guard the ports of Maine, Portland boasts an incredible foodie culture. From gourmet eateries like Duckfat to ice creameries visited by influential American Presidents, Portland is a hub for hipster traveling in the Northeast.

We were famished by noon, and everybody needed an hour-long iPhone battery charge. I had my trusty Harvard Charge Pack (I made sure to grab one before a road trip -- can you prove you did something fun when you don't have any pictures? Not in today's social media-obsessed world...), but even so, we were all just itching to get our battery levels back up to 100%. 

We found Eventide Oyster Co., an oyster bar/classic New England fare restaurant that had the most inventive renditions of the dishes we've come to know and love. Fish and chips, lobster rolls, and oysters will never taste the same after you've come here!\

Boston is big on oysters, with plenty of restaurants hosting a $1/oyster nights around the city most nights of the week. Being a New England coastal city, we get the freshest of seafoods, and so oysters are not anything new your average Bostonian. I've got to say, however, that the sampling of different types of oysters that we had at Eventide were unparalleled. 

So if you're a #foodie and you have a free weekend this summer, make sure Portland, ME is one your list!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Learning How To Cook

I'll always be the first person in the room to admit that I don't know to cook -- my mom was adamant about keeping the kitchen her space when I was growing up, and as a result, I didn't know how to use a toaster until I was a sophomore in high school. Yup, I was that kid.

College hasn't been much better -- Harvard has a school-wide, grade-wide rule that if you're living on-campus, you're also on the meal plan. On top of that, there's just 1 meal plan (all you can eat, 3+ times a day!). Because of this, the dining halls become the main social spaces at Harvard. If you come by during meal time, you'll see hoards of college students chatting, doing homework, holding meetings, practicing lines for their new play... you name it, it's happening in the dining halls. My favorite is Kirkland House's dining room, painted yellow with huge windows that let the sunshine in.

So yes, we as Harvard students are getting coddled by the amazing food that the dining services provides us... bringing me back to my point that we never learn how to cook for ourselves. Okay, I might be speaking for myself when I say this, but really, I just don't know how to cook!

This summer living on my own, and working with other fellow 20 year olds who have to grocery shop, cook, and clean for themselves has been an awesome experience. I haven't cooked too much for myself, but I have been doing lots of group meals with friends!

Last week was Jordan's (The Harvard Shop's Web Manager) birthday, so he had us all over for a celebration dinner. Homemade wings, pasta salad, bruschetta, and fresh fruit -- what more can you ask for?

We may be college students, but we're on our way to adulthood, and we have to learn how to subsist one more than a burrito bowl from Chipotle sooner or later!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer in Boston: Take a Day Trip!

Summer sounds like the perfect time to visit the Northeast -- well, with the picturesque towns, quaint communities, and the history that's brimming from every little corner of the region, I don't blame you for wanting to visit Boston. 

What's more is that the summer months are when the most Harvard campus tours are going on, and a number of my friends are taking the summer to brush up on their presentation skills & giving tours through the Harvard Admissions Office or other tour companies like The Hahvahd Tours. There are thousands and thousands of tourists filtering in and out of Cambridge/the Harvard campus, so if you're from around here, the summer makes for the ideal time for a nice escape.

Being working students, we only had the weekend. But being 20-year-old students, we were up for "roughing it," and took a 4 hour drive up to Portland, Maine after work on Friday. 

That night, got to our campsite in Maine (after some snack pit stops... aka KFC drive-thru?), and set up our 4 person tent. We got to bed pretty early so that we could get up early and spend the better part of the day exploring Portland. 

Captured a cool shot of Charlie Gibbons, Harvard Student Agencies' Marketing & Distribution's Marketing Account Manager.

One of the most famous lighthouses in Portland! 

Bryant Yang, Harvard Student Agencies' Vice President and Liz Stebbins, Harvard Student Agencies' Marketing & Distributions Managing Director, soaking in the sun. 

I'm a super big fan of the water (I grew up in Southern California, 5 minutes from the beach), so being back near the coast was such a welcome vacation. So much fun exploring new places, new sights, and new eateries (watch out for the next post on Portland's food!) -- hey, Harvard students can have fun, too!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Meet the Managers: Riya Patel

Can't believe we've already surpassed the better part of July! T-minus 5.5 weeks until the new school year starts... I (and the other Harvard students slowly, slowly recovering from lack of sleep and extra-curricular draining) am coming to terms with the reality that the sweet taste of summer will feel like just a dream in a few week's time, but I'll be taking advantage of every last minute of summer liberation!

Continuing on The Harvard Shop Blog's special feature on our student managers, here's a guest post written by Group Gear's managing director, Riya Patel '17. (P.S. If you're in need of any personalized clothes, accessories, bags, or really, just anything you need personalized for your family, your club, your sorority or fraternity, check out for the lowest prices ever!)

Hi! I’m Riya and I’m the Manager of GroupGear, The Harvard Shop’s custom merchandise business. I’m from the beautiful state of Vermont with green mountains, cows, maple syrup and Ben&Jerry’s (you’re welcome); so it’s exciting to be in Cambridge, close to a bustling city with endless fun.

I have a little sister who’s a gazillion times more talented in the arts than me, so my parents always wonder what went wrong with me. Unfortunately for them, that doesn’t stop me from dancing in the kitchen or singing (at least attempting to) at the top of my lungs at home.

I love fluffy animals and want a dog. But I’m allergic…so that poses a slight problem. Maybe I’ll just get a pet turtle instead.

I’m currently a sophomore in Kirkland House concentrating in Sociology with a secondary in Economics and a citation in Spanish. One day, I hope to have a career in international relations and global development.

Life at Harvard Student Agencies:
As GroupGear Manager, I work with my partner in crime (aka the Operations Manager), Lucy Slack, to carry out a simple and streamlined process for our customers, vendors and suppliers to produce custom merchandise for groups on campus and beyond. We’ll make sure your squad looks fresher than ever for your next big event! Through my job at HSA, I’ve learned more about business, budgets, customer service, marketing, web development, etc. than I could have ever imagined. Plus, we have milkshake Mondays at our team meetings in the office so life here just couldn’t be better.

Outside of HSA, I serve as a Representative on Harvard’s Undergraduate Council, give tours for the Admissions Office, and row IM Crew for KHouse best house.

In my free time, I love traveling, jamming to throwbacks with friends, being outdoors, giving hugs, laughing a lot and eating food (especially burritos).

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Summer in Boston: Kayaking on the Charles

This one should be a no brainer. Reasons to go kayaking on the Charles: fun exercise, beautiful views, break from studying, vicariously reliving the first half of freshman fall when you + 200 of your closest friends were crew walk-ons. Reasons not to go kayaking: you have a fear of water.

Like I said, a no brainer. The Charles River Canoe & Kayak company have an abundance of options, whether you want to kayak on your own, with a non-crew friend, or go on a guided tour. They have five rental locations, making it a very popular option among college students. Below are some other companies to check out:
SKYLINE & SUNSET TOURS (2 HOURS): Exactly what it sounds like. Just you, the city, the sunset, and the open water...and an informative stranger. You can also go by stand-up paddleboard. $49.
BOSTON HARBOR TOURS (3 HOURS): Paddle from the Charles to the USS Constitution, Financial District, Esplanade, and back to Kendall, with views of the State House, Prudential, and Hancock buildings along the way. $75.
BARKING CRAB TOURS (4 HOURS): The same as the sunset tours, but you get barbeque from Redbones of Somerville upon arrival. $75.
BARBEQUE KAYAK TOURS (2.5 HOURS): Same as the Boston Harbor tours, but you end with lunch at the Barking Crab. They anticipate your forthcoming food baby, so after the noms they’ll take a scenic drive through historic downtown Boston and drop you back off at Kendall. $90.
SCREW THIS, I’M GROWN: A single kayak is $15 an hour/$60 per day, and a double kayak is $19 an hour/$76 per day.
Unfortunately, prime kayaking season happens to be right when we’re off school (late May-end of August), so it’s perfect if you’re spending the summer in Boston. If not, though, there are a couple weekends in late April, early May, and throughout September you can sneak in a rendezvous on the river before classes get too strenuous. 

P.S. - Kayaking makes a great "work-out" (but really, if you go in a double kayak, you can just make the other person paddle)!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Behind the scenes: How everything is printed

I am definitely the biggest shopper I know out there (seriously, you can't stop me from taking advantage of a good seasonal sale). The stores I frequent vary and the items I buy range, but I've never actually known how each of my shirts are made... until a few days ago!

As a retail store, The Harvard Shop is probably the fifth cog in the retail merchandise chain, which starts off with the manufacturers, which then blends in to the wholesale providers that sell us bulk orders of t-shirts, sweatshirts, and the like. 

What I didn't realize as both a customer and as a manager at a retail store is that every little step counts, and every step is made by a team of individuals. 

Last week, I was able to see first hand just how all of our apparel is received, unpacked, hand-screen printed, and hand-packed with care. These are the clothes that make their way to the shelves on our stores (we recently started a partnership with Amazon, so you can get your fill of Harvard goodies via AmazonPrime!). 

Joe, owner and chief of By Design Screen Printing, the local screen printer stationed just a 15 minute drive from our offices in Cambridge, MA, showed us around his whole factory and gave us a walk through of the entire screen-printing process. 

Joe started off the tour with some real talk: from one small business to another small business, we both know how hard it is to run a small-scale operation with a big vision, but Joe and his team at By Design has worked closely with us, The Harvard Shop, for more than 5 years, the Boston Fire Department, various Boston tour groups, city government groups, running clubs, and other retailers to bring them what they need at a low price, always (and with a smile). 

After By Design receives the design from its client, it goes ahead and presses the design in to the kinds of screens that Joe is holding up here. These screens are clear and, when pressed with the heat pressure cooker, retain the design.

How fun are these paints? I had no idea that real paint was used for screen printing (yup, all of these designs that don our t-shirts are printed with a combination of these paints. Crazy!

So this is how a t-shirt is screen printed: each color is a layer, and so shirts with multiple colors incorporated in to a design have to go through multiple rounds of being pressed with the paint. Each shirt has to go under the heat, and only layer of color can be printed at a time (so you can only imagine how much time goes into printing 1 t-shirt!). That gold you see above is just the finishing touch to the classic Harvard crest you're seeing on the Harvard Navy Bestseller Crest T-Shirt.

Seeing the Harvard Women's Crop Top getting made before my own eyes gave me a huge sense of appreciation for everything that I wear (no joke). One of Joe's employees spent an entire afternoon hand-printing over 200 of these tops! 

Each of these shirts take a spin through the dryer and are hand-folded and placed in to batches for distribution to our stores. 

Seeing how each of these shirts are made from start to finish hugely shifted my perspective and given me an insane appreciation for retail--seriously, isn't it so crazy that all of this apparel is made by hand? 

For locally sourced & printed Harvard apparel, check us out at!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Meet the Managers: Jess Li

Hi! My name is Jess and I'm the Managing Director of The Harvard Shop. I'm from Lynnfield, Massachusetts, a suburban town about thirty-five minutes away from Harvard. My family is originally from China, which means unbeatable home-cooked Chinese food when I visit home. In an attempt to replicate these meals, I have taken up dumpling making with friends in my spare time. I also have one younger brother, who's actually coming to Harvard as a freshman this fall! We haven't gone to school together for a long time, so I can't wait for lots of quality family bonding.

At Harvard, I'm a rising junior concentrating in Human Evolutionary Biology. Being a science concentrator, I guess I'm a bit of an anomaly among HSA managers, but I love being able to pursue my two greatest passions (science and business) simultaneously at Harvard. In the future, I hope to work at the intersection of these two fields.

Outside of HSA, I'm the captain of the Harvard Women's Club Soccer Team. I play everyone's least favorite/most feared position - the goalkeeper. When I tell people that, they usually give me a surprised look and tell me about their one painful experience playing goalie in the third grade. Anyways, I love being on the team because it's a great group of people and playing soccer is my primary stress outlet during the school year. 

As the Managing Director of The Harvard Shop, I oversee the whole operation, which includes three physical locations, two e-commerce websites, a stock room, a custom retail business, and a graduation products division. At a high level, I create an overall strategy for growth and efficiency for the company while ensuring that all THS managers and employees have positive experiences at work. Day to day, I work with each of the managers to help them grow their respective parts of THS. I also manage relationships with existing external partners and look to create new ones. This job has exposed me to all aspects of running a business; I've probably learned more at HSA than I ever could in a classroom. I also love my team - they truly make it fun to go to work each day!