As the new semester rolls in, it’s natural to reflect on changes made since last year, and one of the most
notable changes is the replacement of two of the five Donaghey Hall storefronts.
Last semester two stores were replaced to “better serve our students,” Vice President of Finance and Administration Diane Newton said.
Mosaique Bistro was replaced with Twisted Taco and Blue Sail Coffee was replaced with a second Einstein Bros. Bagels location.
Meanwhile, the space that formerly housed Uncle T’s is undergoing construction to become the UCA Welcome Center by the end of summer 2019, and the Trek Bicycle Store space will be used for meetings and events by UCA.
Oftentimes, change is a good thing. It’s necessary for the progression of a place and an evolution of a people.
However, there is also a risk that such change could overtake the original spirit of a community.
Conway has a unique aesthetic, and its local stores reflect that.
Think of Whole Hog, Taziki’s, Tacos 4 Life, Hog Pen and a multitude of other local Conway restaurants. These restaurants exist within the context of where they are.
One cannot find a Whole Hog in California, or a Tacos 4 Life in New York, and that’s what makes Conway unique.
Each of those local restaurants adds to the charm of Conway, Arkansas.
The UCA campus community is a slice of the Conway community. And for UCA, the old Donaghey stores — the Blue Sail and Mosaique — were the Hog Pen and Taziki’s of the campus community.
They were locally-owned businesses that provided opportunity for local entrepreneurs to thrive.
In fact, the Blue Sail was owned by UCA alumnus Kyle Tabor.
A UCA alumnus would know far more about the UCA campus community’s needs than the Einstein Bros. founder from California.
The Blue Sail on Donaghey was the only one of three, the other two being in Downtown Conway and Little Rock.
And Mosaique’s sole location was at Donaghey Hall, meaning its closure is the death of that brand.
Perhaps Einstein Bagels and Twisted Taco will be more popular and yield more revenue than local businesses.
And that, of course, is a good thing for the campus economy. However, not only is the UCA campus home to an Einstein Bagels in the Student Center, but Einstein Bagels adds no cultural value to campus.
Virtually every university has an Einstein Bagels or a similar coffee chain on its campus. The Twisted Taco is less profuse, but one can still find it in Georgia or Tennessee.
Why go to a university that looks just like any other school and has the same food as any other campus?
Why make UCA less noteworthy?
That’s not to say a community cannot have more popular stores and restaurants within its shopping display. After all, there’s a reason those restaurants are as popular as they are.
But that’s what the Student Center aims to do: provide well-known brands that are familiar to potential and current students so they can feel comfortable.
But The Shoppes at Donaghey are something else entirely. Everything about Donaghey, from its giant metal bear to its purple interior lighting, reads UCA bears.
The retired Donaghey stores added local flavor to UCA.
From a purely economic standpoint, perhaps these stores “better serve our students.” But at what cost?