Like any college town, Morgantown has its fair share of locally owned “mom and pop” stores and restaurants. The last two weeks, I wrote blog posts looking at these businesses, and came to the conclusion that without any uniqueness, a store is destined to fail.
However, there is a greater threat to local business other than lack of originality: big business.
In just four years, the landscape of Morgantown business had changed greatly. The huge influx of Sheetz locations and the additions of Chipotle and High Street’s Panera Bread have made many in town wary of corporations coming into the community.
Last fall, the Sunnyside Superette, a college landmark for the past several decades, closed it’s doors for good, much in part due to the WVU-endorsed Sheetz that opened up less than a block away from it at University Place.
Shortly after the Superette’s closing, I spoke to its owner, Pat McGinley, about how the larger company affected his business.
Later on in the development (of University Place), it was announced that they would be putting a grocery store in the bottom of (the building). Instead, they put in a Sheetz, which is a far cry from their original plans of a full-service grocery.
McGinley’s biggest problem with the Sheetz was the fact that, due to a private-public partnership with WVU, the mega-convenience store is allowed to sell tobacco products on university property despite WVU’s heavily-pushed (but rarely, if ever, enforced) tobacco-free policy.
While Sheetz wasn’t the only reason the Superette closed-McGinley also cited the lack of students over the summer and some ill-conceived road work on University Avenue as deterrents to his business-it was enough, and the Superette died with a whimper.
Thankfully, not all stories of big businesses coming to Morgantown end this way.
Around the same time, WVU’s campus was abuzz with excitement that Chipotle would soon be opening. In a turn of events that surprised me, however, campus consensus of the issue quickly changed a month after the restaurant’s opening.
While, granted, only WVU students were interviewed for the above stories, I believe the argument still holds footing. Maybe people were generally excited at first to try something new before realizing what they really loved was in front of them all along (like a 1990’s teen movie), or perhaps the excitement for Chipotle was the result of bandwagon-hopping.
Still, some Morgantown residents are protesting the commercialization of their beloved city, and places like Chipotle might take a little longer to really make their presence felt.
What do you think? Are Morgantown’s local businesses in danger? What other businesses do you see making an impact?