Having just returned from eating a delicious hoagie at Subway on Spring Street, I can say that I’m truly content with the world. To be completely honest, I’ve had better hoagies in my life, but Subway’s convenience, location, prices and familiarity make it stand out on Spring Street. Across the street from Subway is Pappa Charlie’s. You can almost buy two foot-longs from Subway for the price of a bite-sized “Gwyneth Paltrow” sandwich at this local deli. I do have respect for mom-and-pop businesses and dread a world consisting of only Walmart and McDonald’s, for those mom-and-pop shops add personality and diversity to our commercial lives. However, there is a time and place for those restaurants, art galleries and antique shops, and a college town populated by 20-year-olds with limited budgets certainly isn’t the right place for them.
From September until June, students inhabit Williamstown ,and it would be wise and considerate to cater to them. However, taking a glance at the booming metropolis that is downtown Williamstown, I get the impression that Williamstown isn’t a college town, but rather a quaint vacation village. I understand that senior citizens flock to the Berkshires in the summer time, and also in the fall to witness the majestic fall foliage, but an overwhelming majority of the time we, the students, and not the vacation-goers, are the main group of consumers here. It is preposterous that there aren’t more restaurants like Subway on Spring Street, and that precious real estate is wasted on art galleries and antique shops into which few, if any, students ever venture inside.
Many of my buddies at other colleges tell me about the 24-hour diner that they “hit up” at 3 a.m. to culminate their eventful evenings. Those restaurants exist at those schools – some of which are of comparable size to Williams and are similarly secluded – because those businesses understand the mindset of a college student and, as a result, they get brisk business. Imagine leaving Goodrich at 2 a.m. and being able to feast on a succulent stack of double blueberry buttermilk pancakes from an IHOP conveniently located next to Goff’s. But instead, Williamstown dies at 8 p.m. and, even if all the stores were open until two in the morning, I can’t really picture swarms of students craving antique furniture at that hour. Unfortunately, Williamstown seems to care more about the enjoyment of the transient summertime guests than it does for the student body that is responsible for the livelihood of the town.
After pumping iron at the gym, I step out into the Williamstown tundra and my body craves power bars and energy drinks. Strategically located next to the gym is Ephporium, a convenience store that, contrary to its collegiate name, is a burden to every Williams student. It corners the convenience store market and charges exorbitant fees for the simple goods that anyone who has just exercised desires. Just like Pappa Charlie’s has competition in Subway, a 7-11 or, even better, a Wawa, could serve as competition or replacement for Ephporium – then Williamstown would be fulfilling its role as a college town. Why stop at Ephporium? For the two weeks a year when we can wear shorts outside, it would be great to be able to purchase an ice cream at Dairy Queen, where, unlike at Lickety Split, you wouldn’t have to pay an arm and a leg. The same applies to Hart’s Pharmacy where a tube of toothpaste costs three times the price at Rite Aid, which you need a car to get to. Chains are a college town’s best friend.
I realize that mom-and-pop shops are generally very friendly establishments and have a certain irreplaceable charm. The world would be a worse place if chains were to take the place of all small businesses, yet it is crucial to understand that chains have their merits and in certain areas (like Williamstown) they are preferable. Subway took a bold stand, for it is the only chain currently on Spring Street, and Williams students rightfully flock there. I hope Subway has started a trend on Spring Street where the stores will begin to echo the sentiments and desires of the students they try to serve.