On Monday morning, I was heading over to the Student Union to get a bagel from People’s Market, which is a student-run, organic coffee shop that sells a variety of organic foods. As I was walking through the DuBois wind tunnel, trying to ignore the ugly construction site in my peripheral vision, I noticed a wooden sign that had toppled over. It said, “People’s Market Located in the Student Union.”. It was sad that it had fallen to the ground, but had I chosen to stand it up again, it would have been counterproductive because of the gusty weather. So I left it on the ground.
It turned out that the fallen sign situated right next to a construction site was a bit of a metaphor.
Construction, combined with the wind on this campus, makes for a very unappealing exterior at times. Construction sites seem to expand every week, creating new detours all over campus. Taking these detours has forced me to wonder about how on-campus businesses are being affected. It turns out that eateries all over campus are seeing changes in their sales due to construction detours, forcing them to increase advertising.
I discovered this when I walked into People’s Market. Once inside, I grabbed a bagel, cream cheese spread and AriZona Green Tea.. I asked the cashier how construction had affected their sales. He told me that their sales have decreased by about 50 percent. The University has closed off the most accessible entrance to People’s Market and construction has obscured its facade almost entirely.
People’s Market was founded 40 years ago as a means of challenging chains like Starbucks, according to the cashier, Kyle Angstadt, who is a senior at the University of Massachusetts. He began talking about the Starbucks that recently opened in the Integrated Sciences Building, sparking frustration among students and organizations such as the Center for Education, Policy and Advocacy (CEPA) and Student Labor Action Project (SLAP). These organizations run campaigns against chains on campus and advocate for the abundance of student-run businesses at UMass, supporting eateries such as People’s Market, Earth Foods and more.
Student-run organizations are essential to the UMass campus. During my first semester, I wondered why we didn’t have a Dunkin Donuts or a Starbucks on campus like the schools that some of my friends from home attended. Almost four semesters at UMass later, I have adapted to the culture of the campus. I learned that establishments such as People’s Market and Earth Foods represent the culture of our environment. At this University and the community at large, there are people that support buying locally grown food and emphasizing sustainability. In many ways, People’s Market represents these ideas.
People’s Market donates all of its tips to various charities. Most recently, Angstadt said, the non-profit donated to flood relief in New York.
It is unfortunate that there are people on this campus who have turned away from purchasing their morning coffee from People’s Market because of the construction or a fence. Instead of indirectly donating a portion of their morning coffee budget, students are now giving their money to Starbucks – the essential enemy of independent, student-run organizations.
Samara Abramson is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.