Ann Arbor comes with a certain organic, community-oriented reputation. But as I walked up State Street, the sign posted outside the space previously occupied by independent bookseller Shaman Drum screamed quite the opposite. This October, a Five Guys Burgers and Fries chain will open up where the bookstore resided for 29 years and will contribute the demise of local business in Ann Arbor.

Is it completely idealistic to hope that Ann Arbor will stay unique? Is it a lost cause to believe that citizens and students alike can resist a corporate takeover? The loss of Shaman Drum is just one example of the declining city support for locally owned businesses. In the area visible from where Five Guys will open, I can see a Starbucks, Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings and Urban Outfitters. The trend is most definitely not Ann Arbor’s friend.

Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh. Ann Arbor has managed to maintain some of its ingrained local culture. Between a string of independent record stores, coffee shops and the famous Fleetwood Diner, Ann Arbor is far from generic. Unfortunately, however, in the areas most accessible to students, evidence that Ann Arbor was once a locally supported city is becoming sparse.

In my opinion, Michigan students have played a prominent role in the downfall of local business. We seem to struggle with the notion that we have a certain responsibility to the community of Ann Arbor. Far too many students treat Ann Arbor as if they are simply passing through while they are enrolled at the University. Given the massive presence the University has in Ann Arbor, it’s possible that students lose sight of the reality that this is also the permanent home of over 100,000 residents, many of whom rely on the local economy to make a living. But ignorance is by no means an excuse for the lack of consideration the student body has for the city of Ann Arbor.

As far as I can see, the student body as a whole makes very little effort to foster the growth of local business in Ann Arbor. But the encouraging news is that it will take very little initiative for the student body to actually make a difference. Instead of settling for the convenience of Jimmy Johns, Dominos and a variety of other large, recognizable chains, students should frequent Maize and Blue, Pizza Bob’s and a variety of other locally run establishments. Instead of buying their books from the massive Barnes and Noble, students should purchase their books and supplies from Ann Arbor’s own Ulrich’s. The list of simple ways in which students can support local businesses can go on and on. As a university of more than 40,000, the slightest effort on behalf of the student body can undoubtedly make a difference in the composition of Ann Arbor’s economy.

Borders, the international bookstore chain, was founded in our city of Ann Arbor, right around the corner from where Five Guys will open. The support of local business is not some idealistic pet project. Rather, local business in Ann Arbor has the capacity to flourish to heights far beyond the city limits. I urge the student body to step up, harbor the spirit of our city and sustain the tradition of local business in Ann Arbor. It would truly be a shame for future generations of Wolverines to have no proof of the unique culture of local business that is integral to the history of Ann Arbor.

Zach Grant is an LSA sophomore.

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