Towns and Gowns—A Love Story

Andy Stec, Columnist

Starbucks grossed $3.82 billion in 2014. That’s in the area of 727,000,000 grande pumpkin spice lattes. So they’re not exactly starving for business. Twenty Starbucks locations dot the Twin Cities, but there’s only one Ginkgos—721 Snelling Ave N. It’s a landmark in the Midway Community, and to Hamline students as the home of great coffee, great music and a great atmosphere. It’s the epitome of the community-oriented spirit that Hamline University claims to support and encourage. So why then, did we bring a corporation worth billions in to drown them out?

Ginkgos has been a staple of Snelling for over two decades, and the perfect representation of a picturesque small business. The Turkish restaurant Black Sea – a few doors down—is much the same. It’s entrepreneurs like them that make the Twin Cities a wonderful place to live. They give us a sense of cultural identity that stands out from the rest, and shows us to be a supporter of the little man. So naturally it’s a bit confusing when Hamline seems to argue against this idea with a Starbucks located directly in Anderson Center. Ginkgos, like any of the eateries in Midway, doubtlessly gets a large portion of its support from Hamline students. Which is exactly how they should—a symbiotic relationship between businesses and universities is something that goes back to Higher Education in Medieval Europe, and for good reason. The Town and Gown relationship is one that directly teaches something that students cannot learn in a classroom setting—the importance of community in our daily lives. A civic sense of duty is a healthy idea to foster, and one that Hamline seems to support on the exterior. I know its claim to community support is one of the large contributing factors to my choosing to attend.

However, it seems this relationship isn’t as important as they claim. If you’ve read my past columns, you know I’m no fan of corporations. This instance is no different. Was Ginkgos ever asked if they would like to open a shop within Anderson, or anywhere on campus? The inclusion of Starbucks in Anderson is wholly unnecessary, and telling of the true intent of Anderson itself. It’s not a student center, it’s an alumni center. Why aren’t orgs allowed to display ads anywhere but above the forum? Why aren’t the walls filled with student art and creativity? The Anderson Center is exactly what it looks like: a postcard landmark that Hamline can point to when alumni come to visit. Starbucks looks fancy, artisanal and clean—straight and simple. Never mind the uniqueness that makes Ginkgos a valuable contributor to the local culture and aesthetic, and never mind the support of community and local business.

I’ll have a grande Americano with room, please.