Losing local landmarks

Recent closures are changing the character of the University community.

Last week, the Star Tribune reported that the North Country Co-op Grocery, the first co-operative grocery store in the Twin Cities and a West Bank fixture for the past 37 years, would be closing due to declining sales. Set to shut its doors by Nov. 4 , the closing of the North Country Co-op adds its shadow to an already darkening Cedar-Riverside business community.

Last year, the Viking Bar went fishing for good, shutting down one of the most unique concert venues in the city, and for nearly the last three months, the indefatigable Hard Times Café has been closed. While the Hard Times owners promise it will be opening again as soon as permit filing and renovations are finished, these developments have made for a very quiet part of campus lately.

While University students might be losing in the North Country Co-op a nearby place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, we’re also losing some of our campus’s character. Last year, Know Name Records closed in Dinkytown. For a record store to go out of business on a college campus as large as ours was certainly a surprise to some, particularly those alumni who can’t imagine the University in the 1960s or 1970s without a record store.

We’ve also seen the Purple Onion move out of its location on 14th Avenue and Fourth Street to make way for a Potbelly Sandwich Works and Qdoba Mexican Grill. While these businesses provide jobs for the area, they don’t distinguish our campus from any other one in the country. If our school has the same chain restaurants surrounding it you could find at Ohio State or the University of Washington, it detracts from the uniqueness of the community, and we feel that comfortable sameness should not be a goal.

Whatever business or businesses come to the North Country Co-op’s location might provide jobs for the area, but if the past is any indicator, they’re more likely to be corporate chains than the kind of independent locally owned stores they replace. And some of our University’s character will slip away with them.