According to a Sept. 28 Daily article, it won't be much longer until construction is finished on a new CVS Pharmacy on State Street. While this may be exciting news to some, others are complaining that the proverbial virginity of downtown Ann Arbor is at stake and are upset over the hassles of construction (Officials: CVS slated to open near campus early next year, 09/28/2010). I have two words for those of you up in arms about the new CVS construction: Stop whining.
First, there may exist concerns among individuals about the demolition of a building constructed in 1899 and deemed part of the city’s historic district. Yet, a look at the old structure — which will be replaced by the CVS — reveals a gray, grimy and uninspiring exterior. It’s not like we’re talking about the demolition of part of the Law Quad here. In my opinion, the dullness of the current structure is conceivably a reason why the city allowed CVS to move in.
Then there’s the neighboring business — Mr. Greeks Coney Island — that blames a loss of business due to the CVS construction. This argument doesn’t do much for me. If somebody possesses enough desire to eat at the Coney Island, the individual can find his or her way into the unobstructed building without much difficulty. Yes, the construction is currently reducing the availability of a couple of parking spots, but I have trouble imagining a time when parking spots on the most business-packed strip of State Street weren’t a premium. Also, I would hope that Mr. Greeks would be well-aware of the risk of neighboring construction incurred by leasing the State Street property. Case in point: North Quad.
Some students dislike the idea of the CVS pharmacy because of their allegiance to the closest — and only — campus drug store, The Village Apothecary. I’m sure many students prefer the intimacy and potentially superior customer service provided by the family-owned enterprise. And that’s fine. But one's personal preference is generally not suited to the taste of everyone else. Also, I find it wrong to manifest one’s prejudices toward a business into a maxim for others to follow. This type of thinking — when put into action — has the potential to severely hinder the choices of individuals in a marketplace, effectively telling them how to spend their money.
Perhaps the greatest pet-peeve I have about anti-CVS sentiment is the romanticizing of “mom and pop”-era State Street. Within a close vicinity to CVS stands Potbelly’s Sandwiches, Ben and Jerry’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Starbucks Coffee, Urban Outfitters and Chipotle. These are all national chains. And frankly, I find it hard to believe that Ann Arbor is worse off for having these. On the contrary — Chipotle serves delicious burritos at the same price as BTB, and Starbucks — though a tad pricey — provides the community with access to gourmet coffee. If these chains had never been allowed to “invade” this stretch of State Street, the community’s access to Chunky Monkey ice cream, Caffé Vanilla Frappuccinos, pulled pork burritos, v-neck t-shirts and miscellaneous hipster paraphernalia would be dramatically reduced.
Those looking for a lesson in this matter need to look no further than season 2, episode 17 of “South Park.” In the episode, the city is assaulted by the arrival of international coffee conglomerate, Harbucks. A wave of unjustified anti-corporate fervor takes over the city, as local rivals push a political campaign to drive the chain out of town. In the end, South Park citizens finally taste Harbucks coffee, in awe of the product’s superiority over the local competition and in realization of their stupidity. And though fictional, the “South Park” episode resembles the current situation with CVS.
This is not a defense of corporations, but rather of common sense. Most of my favorite places to eat in Ann Arbor are locally-owned. I prefer them for a number of reasons: the cuisine, atmosphere, customer service and price. But I also recognize a clear advantage when I see one. There has been a demand on campus for a large pharmacy for several years now. The opening of the new CVS Pharmacy will grant the campus community easier access to medicines and other goods at times far later than 6 p.m. (the time that the Village Apothecary's pharmacy closes), compared to our current situation where one has to venture miles away from campus to find such a pharmacy.
Not to mention that the CVS will create dozens of jobs and even restore the parking spots next to Mr. Greeks Coney Island. Personally, I’m finding it hard to see what’s not to like here. If we truly consider the benefits and avoid thinking along the lines of economic protectionism or romanticizing about the nonexistent glory days of State Street business, the advantages of a CVS Pharmacy close to campus are clearly evident.
Alex Biles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.