Returning to the snowy, sleepy town of Brunswick, Maine in the middle of the winter—especially for those who spend break in a large, bustling city—can feel a little bit like going into hibernation. The sidewalks are slippery, the air is frigid and all you want to do is stay holed up in your room. Even taking a walk to Moulton, Thorne or a college house party on a snowy night can feel like an insurmountable effort.
Hard as it may be to venture out, it’s important to remember that we’re not just college students but Brunswick residents who make up an essential piece of the town community—and economy. We constitute a significant percentage of Brunswick’s population of just twenty-thousand, meaning local businesses not only cater to but count on patronage from Bowdoin students as a part of their business model.
A number of new restaurants, bars and coffee shops have opened in Brunswick in recent years, with the explicit aim of welcoming Bowdoin students and staff to come in from the cold and find community outside of the typical Moulton and Thorne fare. The owners of Social Goose Bar, which opened in October, have noted their hope that students will stop by for drinks and pub fare. Last year, Dog Bar Jim began offering a dinner menu Wednesday through Saturday. And at the even more newly-opened The Abbey, students will be among those welcomed morning until night at the coffee shop turned cocktail bar.
These new businesses are nestled among long-time town institutions. Frosty’s has sat on Maine Street since 1965, Eveningstar Cinema since 1979, The Great Impasta since 1984 and Joshua’s since 1990. Supporting businesses new and old is an excellent way to engage with the town in which we reside for four years.
By venturing off campus to support local businesses, Bowdoin students could even help to support family-owned shops like Scarlet Begonias, which has sat cozily by the train station since 1995 but now faces an uncertain future.
As Bowdoin students, we often complain about the lack of a social or nightlife scene. While Brunswick may lack certain fixtures many associate with a college town, that won’t change unless we actually go into town, explore and participate in the economy. By frequenting local businesses we love, we can ensure future Bowdoin students enjoy them just as we did.
When the senior class first arrived in Brunswick, due to the pandemic, they were not even allowed to go into town and explore. They missed out on a core part of going to Bowdoin: living in a small town and being part of a tight-knit Maine community. For many of us, this may be our first and only time living in a small town. It’s worth embracing it while we can.
Not all Bowdoin students can afford to go off campus and spend money regularly. But Bowdoin has the resources to support students in visiting local establishments. A number of colleges and universities offer students funding to use at local restaurants as part of their dining hall plan, outside of the sphere of club activities. Allowing students to use Polar Points in partnership with restaurants downtown could make venturing off campus more accessible and encourage even further town engagement.
While this is an initiative typically used at larger institutions, we see no reason why Bowdoin would not be able to communicate with local establishments and create a system that works for both students and the town. Located within easy walking distance of a vibrant town center, Bowdoin is in an excellent position to implement such a program.
Knowing that there is a steady stream of revenue from the College could inspire the opening of new establishments, encourage extended hours and help keep beloved businesses from closing.
As a community—students, staff, faculty and administration alike—let’s make an effort to keep local businesses alive and well. Let’s invest in Brunswick just as much as we do in Bowdoin.
This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, which is composed of Robeson Amory, Miles Berry, Kristen Kinzler, Talia Traskos-Hart, Sam Pausman and Juliana Vandermark.