By Olivia Hicks
COVID-19 has not only caused Western’s academic buildings to close, but also on-campus restaurants, cafes and market places that offer affordable meals and study spaces for students. However, there are many similar local alternatives in Bellingham to fulfill student cravings.
Local Food Options
If Zoe’s Bookside Bagels is calling your name, look no further than the supplier: The Bagelry. Located in downtown Bellingham on Railroad Avenue, the 30-year-old establishment offers a limited menu and walkup window service. Terra Seaton, owner of The Bagelry, said that as a wholesaler to Zoe’s, the bagels are either the same price or less at The Bagelry.
Both Freshëns and the Rock’s Edge Cafe located in the Wade King Student Recreation Center offer smoothies, salads, wraps and bowls. Big Love Juice Bar + Kitchen, located at 1144 10th St., offers a similar menu with juice, lattes, smoothies, burritos, bowls, soup and much more. Big Love Juice offers a 10% discount for online orders through the website and free delivery for orders over $15 within 3.5 miles of the downtown store, said Erin Larsen, community outreach for Big Love Juice Bar + Kitchen. Smoothies are comparable in price, $8.50, to Freshëns smoothies that are under $10.
Regulars at Subway or Panda Express might be interested in locally-owned options. Old World Deli, located at 1228 N. State St., offers sandwiches, salads and soup, along with discounts for current and former students. Members of the Western Alumni Association receive 10% off their order and free local delivery is available for orders over $50. Punch cards are available for a free sandwich after buying 12, according to the owner, Anna Marie Adams. New Peking Restaurant, located at 1208 E. Maple St., specializes in authentic Chinese food, including a one-person dinner special of soup, an entrée, tea and fortune cookies for $9.95.
Oath Woodfire Pizza may be closed, but Övn Woodfired Pizza, located at 1148 10th St., has a similar menu. Övn offers 7-inch pizzas for $12 compared to Oath’s 11-inch pizzas ranging from $8 to $11. Övn also offers starters, salads and sandwiches ranging from $4 to $14.
Other than dining halls, the Fairhaven Market is the only foodservice open on-campus. The Bellingham Community Food Co-op, located at 1220 N. Forest St., is a convenient alternative to the grab-and-go markets on campus. The Co-op offers groceries and prepared food to go with less expensive or similar prices compared with on-campus markets. Sandwiches range from $5.99 to $8.99, and students can purchase a grab-and-go meal with a beverage for less than $10. Students who join the membership program this month receive a $10 gift card and every Wednesday the Co-op offers a 5% discount for students, according to Amy Esary, communications and outreach manager for the Co-op.
Local Coffee Shop Options:
While many restaurants currently do not offer indoor seating, Makeworth Market provides socially distant seating for those seeking a study space and a cup of coffee. The coffee shop, located at 1201 N. State St., also offers similarly-priced beverages compared with the on-campus Starbucks, in addition to serving sandwiches, salads, toast and pastries. Seasonal specialties, such as the Autumn Vanilla Latte, range from $5.50 to $6.25.
Another local coffee shop, ANMLY cafe, offers limited outdoor seating and pick-up. Breakfast options and lunch bowls range in price from $4 to $13. The shop, located at 119 N. Commercial St., also offers a variety of coffee, tea and smoothie beverages varying from $2.85 to $7. From Oct. 12 to Oct. 18, students receive 25% off drinks, according to the owner, Emile Diffley.
Impact on Students and Local Businesses:
Dining out not only provides students with a variety of options that they might be missing, but it also funnels money into the local economy. Jacque Coe, the communications manager for the Seattle Hotel Association and Restaurant Alliance, said COVID-19 has challenged restaurants’ business models, forcing many to make difficult decisions about safety measures that may result in economic costs.
“Roughly 95 cents out of every dollar spent in a restaurant goes back into the local economy,” Coe said. “So restaurants are an economic driver. And we’re a major employer; if your business is cut significantly, you may have had to lay people off. So there’s a rolling effect. And it’s important for all of us to help keep these businesses going — even if it’s just buying a cup of coffee, every dollar helps.”
Whatcom County remains in phase two of Gov. Jay Insee’s “Safe Start Plan,” which allows limited indoor dining options and capacity. Students spending money off-campus could potentially help businesses that are struggling by dining out in a safe manner and tipping if possible, Coe said.
One of those businesses is The Bagelry.
“Basically we’re starting again, from the ground up,” Seaton said. “This business has been around for 30-plus years and it has kind of grown into a very big business, as far as operations and different things that we were offering. There was a really big menu. So, we’ve had to really pare down to the basics and we are very concerned about that.”
However, with only about 1,000 students living on campus, it is difficult to estimate if local business revenue will change this year compared with last, even if students are eating off-campus more often.
“If you normally would have a campus of thousands of students walking on and off-campus and, your business is located in close proximity to that campus, that would be a definite revenue stream for you,” Coe said. “If suddenly that foot traffic is gone, I can’t imagine that it would not dramatically impact your revenues and receipts … and then if you layer on top of that a global pandemic. That’s where businesses are having to innovate; they’re having to pivot.”
One of those on-campus students is Rylan Nunn, a sophomore at Western living in Buchanan Towers East. Nunn said while the lack of campus food services and study spaces has caused him to cook more in his dorm, dine off-campus and save money, it also has been difficult not having access to on-campus amenities.
“Last year, my schedule wasn’t super-compact during the days. I’d have a class at 8 a.m. and then my last one would be done by 4 p.m.,” Nunn said. “I didn’t always want to walk back to the room because we lived on The Ridge, so I would study at the VU a lot of days for a couple of hours or I’d go to the library sometimes. So not having those places open has been a little tough.”
Despite students’ frustration with on-campus closures, leaving campus not only helps the local economy but is also important for students’ wellbeing, according to Nunn.
“I think it’s important for students to get off campus during regular operations and even more so during COVID-19, as we may feel trapped in this school environment … being able to get off campus and separate yourself from ‘work’ is critical for mental health,” Nunn said.