When is the last time you bought something from a North Philadelphia store or restaurant?
I’m not talking about stores run by large corporations, like the Chipotle on Montgomery Avenue and 12th Street or Fresh Grocer on Broad Street near Oxford. I’m talking about small businesses that directly feed the local economy.
There are some Temple students that make an effort to be a part of the community here, but many don’t. And to a large extent, I didn’t put in effort when I first came to Temple.
My freshman year, I lived in White Hall. Like many students, I spent my money at McDonald’s, Rite Aid, Qdoba — and that’s about it. I went to some student-friendly eateries like Richie’s or The Creperie food truck a couple times.
Now two years later, I know those actions did next to nothing to benefit the local economy. Small businesses are key to economic growth, and as students, we could be doing more to help them survive and thrive. It is important that we acknowledge our campus as a neighborhood. After all, we are only spending a few years living in this community that North Philadelphia residents may inhabit for a lifetime.
This year, I’m living in an off-campus house on 17th Street near Edgley, just a few minutes from White Hall. I decided to explore the surrounding area and its businesses last week. Living off campus means living next door to non-students. I wanted to know what shopping options are available for residents when they need them.
I discovered two corner stores on Broad Street near my new home. They weren’t like the grocery stores I had back home though. They only had three or four aisles. And there weren’t laminated labels under each item, but instead small red stickers. Despite that, I collected some basic items — cases of water, paper plates, napkins, canned vegetables and boxed pasta.
When I lived in White Hall, my roommates and I — all natives of the Philadelphia suburbs — would wait until our parents drove up with food, drinks and snacks. We never went to a nearby store. I always thought the closest store I could get cases of water from was the Fresh Grocer.
Whenever I was running low on hair products, I would wait until I could get picked up by my roommate’s mom to go to my hometown and stock up. But I discovered C&P Beauty Supply is just a block from White Hall and a few blocks from my new home. When I first went inside, I was ecstatic to find every single product I use. I thought the nearby store was so convenient. But when I asked the cashier if they see a lot of Temple students, he said, “No, not really.”
And I believe that, because the people I saw in the store were much older than myself. When I arrived back at home from my beauty store trip, I asked my five roommates — all students — if they knew there was a beauty shop right up the street and they all said, “No.”
They didn’t know about the corner stores I saw on Broad Street. I wasn’t surprised by this because before my exploration, I didn’t know either. I told them that there are basic items available nearby.
Supporting local businesses is not only good for the local economy, but also our bank accounts. Students at Temple love venturing to South Philly to buy pancakes for up to $15 at Green Eggs Café. But Temple Rainbow on Broad Street near Susquehanna sells delicious pancakes for $3.25. I wonder if students would make the same trip to South Philly for breakfast if they knew that.
Most Temple students also love going out in Center City and Old City — and there’s nothing wrong with that. Students should explore the city and spend their money however they want. I don’t expect them to find all the comforts of home and things they like in the corner shops nearby. But I do think they will find some of the things they want and need there, so whenever possible, they should choose to buy items from local businesses.
We, as students, have the power to improve the local economy, which would allow community residents to buy more of the things they need. Temple is our home away from home, but for many people in this community, it is their forever home.
With more than 40,000 students, we have a lot of buying potential to help North Philadelphia thrive.
Graduates of Temple are transformed into smarter and more skilled individuals because we come to school here in North Philadelphia. My proposition is that in return, we contribute to this area before it’s our time to fly the nest.
Melissa Bellerjeau is a junior journalism major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.