I walked into People’s Market the other day. As I toasted my bagel, I went to the first fridge where the iced coffee is located. I got my iced coffee and I looked up to read the message on the door. On the door, there was a list of price increases. My heart sank. Just last year, my favorite two things at People’s Market had price raises. And why? Because of competition from University of Massachusetts Amherst Auxiliary Services and UMass Dining.
The reason many students flock to places like Peet’s Coffee in the Integrative Learning Center or People’s Organic in the Campus Center (not to be confused with People’s Market) is because they accept Dining Dollars and YCMP. Well, those students are sadly mistaken, because many of the student-run businesses on campus take Dining Dollars and YCMP. I can proudly say I used most, if not all, of my Dining Dollars at Earthfoods Café this semester. Don’t waste those $9.50 swipes on the expensive hot food at Harvest when you could get a whole meal (plus dessert) at Earthfoods for the same price.
Another great thing about student-run businesses is that they provide products that you really cannot find anywhere else on campus. I would never be able to find the wealth of vegetarian and vegan options that I can find at Earthfoods. I would not be able to have a bagel and cream cheese if it wasn’t for the vegan cream cheese options at People’s Market.
The students who work at these student run-businesses are your colleagues, your classmates, and your friends. They have done something absolutely remarkable by running businesses while in school. They provide the students of this University with things that they can’t get anywhere else on campus. They care about the business and its customers. I have always felt so at home at People’s Market and Earthfoods. And, these students care about their products, as seen in People’s Market’s motto, “Food for people, not for profit,” unlike UMass Dining and its various overpriced cafes all over campus.
Yes, I know it is hard to spend money on student-run businesses if you have limited Dining Dollars and meal plan options. But even if people start just visiting a student-run business once or twice a semester, it will make a difference.
I am lucky to have discovered all of the awesome student-run businesses on campus during my first and second years on campus. I know people who are sophomores and juniors who have never set foot in a student-run business, let alone know where they can find one. So go. Go sit and have a cheaper (and more delicious) cup of coffee at People’s Market. Go to Earthfoods and get the special and the dessert. Don’t waste your Dining Dollars on overpriced food from the UMass dining locations like Blue Wall and Harvest. Go to Campus Design and Copy to print your thesis or book (and you can use your UMass debit!). Skip ice cream at Late Night and head up the hill to Sweets and More. Grab lunch at Greenough or the Sylvan Snack Bar.
I do not write this piece because our student-run businesses are failing. I do not think they are. But, I fear that someday we won’t have these businesses on our campus anymore. I fear that new students will never discover the hidden gems in the Student Union or in Orchard Hill. I fear that Dining Dollars and YMCP will keep the campus food and business in the hands of UMass Dining.
So please, support your local student-run businesses. It is better for you, better for the students running it, and better for the student community. Find a place where you enjoy spending your money during college. And there are no better places than the places started and run by your peers. So start there.
Emilia Beuger is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]