For the first 18 years of my life I was raised in Greenwood, Indiana, a commuter town near Indianapolis. It’s your standard suburb swamped with chain establishments and only housing a few local businesses. I honestly can’t remember going to a single local business in Greenwood.
That’s part of what made Bloomington so remarkable and fun when I arrived. Residents celebrate local spots and their documented histories. Are there any IU alums who don’t have a Nick’s English Hut story of some form?
Many of these businesses are located in downtown Bloomington. Be it Kirkwood Avenue or near the Monroe County Courthouse, they are all within walking distance of IU’s campus. It feels strange to walk down the city’s most iconic street and see popular chains like Five Guys and Chipotle.
Students can get chain food literally anywhere in the country. Almost every town in America has a McDonald’s with the same old menu items. But BuffaLouie’s wings, a box of Baked cookies or a stromboli from Nick’s? Only in Bloomington.
These chains are fine and dandy — I’ve eaten there myself and probably will again — but it’s just not Bloomington. I have a personal rule to only order from local pizza joints because I can buy chain pizza anywhere else, so why not take advantage of the different options while I’m here?
Many treasured local businesses closed up shop this past year. Darn Good Soup, the Pourhouse, Village Deli (which is on a temporary break after closing due to flooding, though its future is uncertain) and now the local Laughing Planet location. Meanwhile, national chains such as Insomnia Cookies, Dunkin’ Donuts and now Raising Cane’s have swooped into town to much fanfare.
Unlike chain restaurants, local businesses have a few locations or just one. Closing just one location could spell doom for a small business but wouldn’t put a dent in a national, or in some cases international, chain’s revenue.
I wasn’t born or raised in this city. I’m very much still learning about its culture everyday, but I’ve grown to love it almost more than my own hometown. There’s much to appreciate about Bloomington, and its local businesses are a massive part of that.
We’ve seen the consequences of local businesses losing support, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and they need us. So next time you’re going out with friends, ordering online or just walking around downtown, do Bloomington a favor and go for local.
Luke Christopher Norton (he/him/his) is a senior studying journalism with a specialization in sports journalism. He wants to cover college football after graduation.