Newark’s Main Street has seen a recent string of small business closures
University students and Newark residents are experiencing an interesting time to be a shopper or store owner on Main Street. Stores are closing and much of the surrounding area is blocked off due to ongoing road work.
Not only do students have to cover their eyes on windy days to avoid dust from continuous construction, but they have to find new ways to get necessities and have fun.
Main Street is currently down a bar with the abrupt closing of Finn McCool’s. One year after being purchased by Jeff Frotton, the pub announced that it would shut its doors.
“Due to circumstances beyond our control we are now closed. Thank you to everyone for your support,” a sign taped to the entrance read.
While the circumstances in question remain undisclosed, patrons like Scott Cameron, a senior English major, are left to find other places to spend their evenings.
“We used to go five or six days a week,” Cameron, who turned 21 near the end of last semester, said. “Not always to drink, but for food [too], because one of our friends was a bartender there. This only lasted a month until it closed which was really upsetting.”
Cameron said that his friend currently has offers to work at Klondike Kate’s and Home Grown Cafe.
“She created a really nice fanclub that would come to McCool’s just to see her,” Cameron said. “So people still want her to work around town and she’s gonna try to do that.”
Students also found Main Street establishments useful for their work-space. Alyssa Hornung, a junior political science major, enjoyed California Tortilla before it shut down because it was cheap as well as a quiet spot to hold fundraisers for her clubs.
“I would have fundraisers where people needed to say some type of codeword to signify they were there for the fundraiser, and then we got a percentage of [California Tortilla’s] earnings,” Hornung said.
California Tortilla was never known for being packed. The location had two floors, the second being the “Avocado Lounge,” which was meant to be used as a study or meeting area for students. The storefront remains available for purchase.
One of the biggest blows toward students was the announcement from Lieberman’s Bookstore that it would close permanently at the end of the month. Many were favorable toward the store because of the deals they offered like the 25% off art supplies discount they implemented on the first Friday of every month.
However, Lieberman’s competitor on campus, Barnes and Noble, offers discounts as well, which may have left the family-owned store to compensate in other ways in order to remain a contender.
Nikilesh Kannan, a sophomore computer engineering major, echoed this sentiment when recalling the events during the university’s New Student Orientations.
“For the incoming freshmen, Lieberman’s always gave them a free shirt when they were on their orientation tours,” Kannan said. “And I feel like now there’s not that incentive.”
The bookstore’s closing also means that come winter session, Barnes and Noble will have a campus monopoly on textbooks. Students who have thought about the issue believe that the corporation will raise their prices a significant amount.
“The [National] 5 & 10 is still going to be there, at least for UD apparel, so that is something the bookstore can still compete on,” Kannan said. “But they’re just gonna increase prices and we already pay a lot in tuition.”
Of course, students can always get their textbooks from Amazon, except they would not have the luxury of being able to use them immediately. Deliveries sometimes take up to a week without their express delivery service “Amazon Prime,” which even with a student account costs $6.49 per month and takes two days to arrive.
The question of whether Barnes and Noble will end up with a true monopoly on campus textbook sales remains open, but the phenomenon of Main Street shops’ apparent demise still lingers.
“It feels like everything’s closing right now, I don’t know why,” Cameron said. “Maybe it’s because of all the construction. I’ve talked to some Newark locals and they say they’re not gonna come to Main Street until construction is done because there’s no point even trying to park.”
Among Finn McCool’s, California Tortilla and Lieberman’s are Jimmy John’s and Buddy’s Burgers which have also closed. Rainbow Records and Margherita’s Pizza have either moved or are in the process of switching locations. Little Goat Cafe is currently blocked off to drivers with parts of Haines Street being closed for construction.
According to the Delaware Department of Transportation’s (DelDOT) website, the project is currently in phase five, which will cover South Chapel Street up to the Main Street Dunkin’ location and will include sawcutting, curb removal, curb ramps, bump-out construction, roadway excavation and paving.
DelDOT’s website also said that phase five is expected to be completed by the end of November, with the entire project anticipated to be completed in the summer of 2020. Regardless, there are still many spots on Main Street and campus in general where students can satisfy their needs for food, alcohol and getting work done.