August 26, 2016

The Townie Argument Against the Student Argument for Big Business in Athens



A relic of the past, according to student journalist Cassie Daigle.

A UGA student recently wrote a Red & Black column in praise of corporate chains, and people are pissed. I haven’t seen Townie Facebook this lit since the Prince Avenue Wendy’s burned down.

Ordinarily, I’d let such less-than-well-thought-out commentary in the local student paper pass. And let it be known that I come here not to bury Cassie Daigle, but to praise her. She’s already discovered the power of the hate click at a young age, and has a bright career ahead of her writing on the internet. But Flagpole wouldn’t be the “colorbearer of Athens” if we didn’t offer some sort of retort to this argument. Athens' many wonderful mom-and-pop businesses are a huge part of what makes this city so special, whether you're here for four years or 40.

Let's break it down:

“It seems that every time downtown Athens welcomes a new chain venue or the University of Georgia expands eateries to suit the masses, the community divides further on the decision to bring in new businesses.”

Yeah, we get worked up about downtown chains sometimes, but really, no one cares about the Panda Express at the Tate Center.

“The argument lies in the desire to keep Athens home to its local shops, ones that support small business owners and give this town the authentic feel we have grown accustomed to. While some feel that our picturesque town is being bulldozed over to make way for the needs of millennials, we are undeniably planting ourselves in the past if the future of Athens resides in small town businesses.”

Sorry, small-business owners. You’re the past. Cassie Daigle says so. Might as well pack it in. We are—on Daigle's advice, Pete and Alicia have sold the Flagpole to Vice Media. Enjoy next week's cover story on vaping drones.

“When Urban Outfitters opened its doors last August, individuals were either for or against its somewhat out of place presence on East Clayton street. Though it arguably changed the aesthetic appeal of downtown, it also generated jobs for individuals in the surrounding area, and while we could argue that the store took away business revenue from surrounding local shops, we couldn’t deny that it is catering to a large portion of Athens inhabitants — students that want higher-end, trend-setting clothing available to them at a convenient location. Stores must cater to different clientele and in Athens that customer base is quite varied.”

Hate to break it to you, but Urban Outfitters gear is made in sweatshops. Just because they charge a lot for it doesn’t make it higher-end. Nor is it trend-setting—the company rips off the trendsetters.

“With a new Starbucks and Caribou Coffee set to arrive on the University of Georgia campus this year, students and the surrounding community are once again debating the merits of bringing in new businesses and how doing so will affect locally owned companies like Jittery Joe’s. I say bring on the competition.”

I’ve heard literally no one complain about a Starbucks opening on campus.

“While the opening of these new coffee shops may overlap with Jittery Joe’s established customer base, it brings new job opportunities to the community, just as the opening of Urban Outfitters did.” 

Well, yeah, but a locally owned coffee shop would bring jobs, too. And more of the money you spent there would stay in the community.

Anyway, as you yourself noted earlier, we’re not even sure Urban Outfitters created any net jobs.

“In addition to these job openings, they will provide a convenience and availability that students want on campus. We don’t want to wait in lines that wrap around the Miller Learning Center. We want to be able to have more options and less wait times. If we continue to worry about the takeover of locally owned businesses such as Jittery Joe’s, we will find ourselves just as frustrated enduring long lines for that iced chai latte.”

It’s truly heartbreaking that the lines for iced chai lattes are so long, but again, unless I’m missing something, adding a locally owned coffee shop would mean shorter lines as well.

“It is no surprise that UGA and the city of Athens work to satisfy students. The city has become so dependent on our business that they must bring in the sort of things we want to see — like an Urban Outfitters or a Starbucks. Perhaps unfortunately for Athens, students are constantly moving and benefit from the convenience of greater options, even if these options might change the aesthetic of our town.”

But why? A big reason people move here (including a lot of students!) is Athens’ uniqueness. I’m not against having a mix of options, but if you want all the chain stuff you have back home in Cobb County, transfer to Kennesaw State.

“We cannot continue to believe that as years go by Athens will stay deeply rooted in small business.” 

Actually, yes we can.

“Business works to satisfy its consumer base, and a majority of that customer base in Athens is made up of the upwards of 30,000 students that attend this university.”

FYI, 90,000 people live here who aren’t students.

“Business owners are only being smart by tapping into new markets.”

Students are a new market? Funny, I thought the university had been here for 200 years.

“Out of the mass of students attending UGA, many of them will drink coffee whether it’s locally owned or a corporate chain. Coffee is coffee when you’ve only got five minutes to get to your next lecture.” 

Once again, how is this an argument for chains over locally owned?

“The majority of students are simply less concerned about the feelings of small town business owners and more concerned about how quickly they can get their espresso.”

Oh. OK, I get it now.