Local businesses safely welcome students back to town

By Charlie Keohane

Lucy Townend
As of March 4, students were allowed to shop for groceries and pick-up takeout from businesses in town.

Following the end of campus quarantine on March 5, local businesses are enthusiastically welcoming students back and encouraging them to safely frequent their shops. 

Abbey LaMay-West, owner of Vermont’s Own Gifts and Goods, a small business that sells foods and other specialty items made in Vermont, is delighted to have students back in town. 

“Students are an integrated part of our community, and they’re a vital part of our community,” LaMay-West said. “Students are an important part of our business. It’s just a nice energy to have in town and in the shop as well.” 

Last semester, LaMay-West was comforted to see how seriously the college took Covid-19, a sentiment which contributes to her warm welcome of students. 

“We’ve seen the college set forth the standard, and we’ve seen the consequences when students don’t follow them last semester,” LaMay-West said. “For me, it’s not any more risky or dangerous than having community members come in at this point.”

Becky Dayton of the Vermont Book Shop, an independent bookstore located downtown, shared similar feelings. 

“We at the Vermont Book Shop are thrilled that Middlebury College students are back and able to venture off campus,” Dayton said in an email to the Campus. “We have been witness to Middlebury College’s impressive, institution-wide commitment to Covid-19 safety and its success in keeping infection rates low.”

Glenn Lower, general manager of the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op, also noted that college has been very cooperative with Covid-19 regulations. 

“We are so excited to have college students back in Middlebury,” Lower said. “We miss the liveliness of students being around.”

Local shops not only appreciate the extra business but also the energy that students bring into town. 

“College students bring the world with them to our little town, and by that I mean not just demographic diversity but also a richness of perspective, experience and vision for the future,” Dayton said. 

LaMay-West empathizes with college students and their unusual semester due to Covid-19 but also understands the townspeople’s concerns with the pandemic. She believes that both groups can find a safe balance of activity. 

“I appreciate the unique situation that students are in and the unique situation that the town is in,” LaMay-West said. “But it’s a symbiotic relationship, and we need to figure out how to make it work.”

Local businesses encourage students to come visit their stores as long as they continue to follow Covid-safe measures like wearing their masks, social distancing and following store capacity limits. 

“We are so, so happy the College is back in session. We invite you to come see us at the Book Shop,” Dayton said. “Say hello, tell us what you’re reading. It will make our day.”