Campus Character: Doug Shrivers


Before he relocated to Middlebury and became an iconic member of the MiddExpress team, Doug Shivers taught at a Montessori school in Portland, Ore. for 22 years. (Campus/Emily White)

By Meredith White

For many students, MiddExpress transcends the services of a basic convenience store. Or maybe it is the bone-chilling excursion on a Vermont winter night that can turn a simple toothpaste run into what makes MiddExpress a true staple. Be it the offering of a wide variety of chasers on a Saturday night, a fuel stop — when 4:00 Proctor seems an impossibly distant future — or a provider of overpriced toiletries, MiddExpress is at your geographically monopolized convenience.

“There are students that come in three, four, five, times a night,” said Doug Shivers who, if you frequent MiddExpress, you proably already know. For those of you who don’t hit that tally on an average night and therefore don’t have the opportunity to become closely acquainted with the staff, Shivers is the late night guy curating your shopping experience with classical music.

“I always remember individual Reese’s cost fourteen-cents,” said Shivers, after ringing up a modest purchase of one Reese’s peanut butter cup (cherry-picked out of the bulk candy bin, a popular move according to Shivers) and a Mango Tango Naked juice. Shivers has been ringing up Reese’s and playing classical music at Midd Express since June of 2011: language school students were his first customers.

“A lot of people who came in here didn’t say anything. And then there were some who knew the rule about going into stores and would talk to me in English for five minutes,” said Shivers. “I know a little Hebrew so sometimes I would surprise them with that.”

The academic setting was not new to Shivers, though. Before coming to Vermont, he taught children at a Montessori school in Portland, Ore. for 22 years.

“Children are very, very excited about learning and they’re very creative,” he said.

Shivers detects the same curiosity amongst students at the College. With his teaching days behind him, Shivers can now enjoy a balanced lifestyle in which his work life remains separate from his personal life.

“I like to cook things. I have to really fix my own things because I’m vegan and gluten free,” said Shivers. He’s been a vegetarian since 1970 when a bunch of his friends all moved into a house together and someone proposed, “Hey, why don’t we be vegetarians?” He’s the only one who’s still a vegetarian. In the midst of my conversation with Shivers, he paused to troubleshoot with the finicky cash register.

“This is our 1998 technology,” he said. He took his time to rewrap and reload the spool of receipt paper.

“I guess the slow cooker is kind of my approach to life,” he said. “I do the same thing when I run or go swimming. I’m not trying to race anyone. I look at all the beautiful fall colors and just enjoy the experience.”

The slow cooker approach doesn’t always exist in the traditional academic environment. Having held two jobs that sandwich the typical educational trajectory, Shivers finds that the need for speed starts young.

“[At Montessori school] it’s always getting ready for the next step and here it’s getting ready for a job,” he said. As for the newly displayed tiny packs of Orbit for just 69 cents: “what word do you think every woman thinks of when they see that? Cute. It’s all marketing.” Shivers knows what he is talking about.