November 18, 2020
She is an institution on the Jacobs University campus in Bremen. For 19 years Renate Bollmann has been running her snack bar “Friseur” right next to the main entrance. It is named after the military hairdresser which once shaved the heads of German soldiers. At the end of the year, the 68-year-old will shut down "Bollie's Bistro", as the snack bar is affectionately called by the guests. "Starting is easier than stopping", she described her mixed feelings. "I realize that now, I didn't know that before."
When she started in October 1999, German soldiers were still stationed on the site. However, the dissolution of the military compound had already been decided. "At that time, I was in charge of the mess hall and initially cooked for the officers," Renate Bollmann recalled. The soldiers left, she stayed – to cook for the construction workers, who converted the barracks into a university, and later for the employees of Jacobs University.
The premises also changed. The mess hall was needed by the university, which in 2001 – the launch year of Jacobs University – offered the former hairdressing salon of the German army to her as an alternative. Renate Bollmann did not hesitate for long and took up the offer, although the salon was still fully equipped. "There was no kitchen, no fridge, no clearing trolley, but six washbasins with chairs, mirrors and carpet." Some of the furnishings in the snack bar have remained from that time. And one or the other potential customer is still fooled by the name "Friseur". "Just the other day someone came in here again to get a haircut," she said with a laugh.
Soups, salads, escalope chasseur, curry sausage with chips or “Strammer Max” – a typical northern German dish with bread, ham and fried egg – the meals she has been offering are down-to-earth in the best sense. Over the years Renate Bollmann has built up a loyal customer base. While students usually eat in their serveries, many employees of the international university come to her. Her neighbors from northern Bremen are also welcome, the snack bar is open to everyone. "My guests are most important to me. The tone is friendly, no comparison to barracks times!"
Lunchtime is the main business, but usually the mother of two is in the snack bar very early in the morning. The bread rolls and the dishes have to be freshly prepared. She also has to do the groceries and take care of the accounting. "I work 60 hours a week." Two years ago, she had already thought about quitting and then moved on anyway. "Now I realize that my body doesn't want to do this anymore" – and corona did not make it easier for her.
Nevertheless, she has always enjoyed her work, it has fulfilled her. But Renate Bollmann is certain that even as a pensioner she will never get bored. There is her family with her husband Lothar, to whom she has been married for 50 years. There are her two daughters Sandra and Ivonne, her four grandchildren – some of which helped out in the café during school vacations from time to time – and recently a great-grandchild who made her a great-grandmother. There is the house by a lake, just a few kilometers from Jacobs University, with the large garden that needs to be taken care of.
And there is her preference for dogs. She already had three boxers and a dachshund and is now toying with the idea of getting dog number 5, which she would pick up at the shelter, just like she did last time with Dieter, the dachshund. "I don't care about the breed. It shouldn’t be too big for me to handle, that is the most important thing for me!"
Renate Bollmann will follow what happens to her snack bar. On behalf of Jacobs University, the external management consultancy SN-Beratung is looking for a new operator. If you are interested in following in Renate Bollmann's footsteps, please send an email to hpnollmann [at] t-online.de.
This text is part of the series "Faces of Jacobs", in which Jacobs University introduces students, alumni, professors and staff. Further episodes can be found at www.jacobs-university.de/faces.