I will be the first to admit that I love Starbucks, or a good smoothie bowl or even some late night chicken nuggets (fun fact: the McDonald’s here closes at 11 p.m.). But as much as I would love a good PSL (pumpkin spice latte) from Starbucks to fulfill my middle school cravings for a cute Snapchat story, we have much better options in our small town.
One of the main benefits of living in a small town for college is the ability to try and support so many small businesses. We get the benefit of freshly baked bread from Rye Berry, as opposed to frozen and thawed breakfast sandwiches from Tim Hortons. Many of our local cafes also use ingredients sourced from farms and land around Hamilton. How could you enjoy walking around the farmer’s markets on Saturday mornings and not want to support local farmers and businesses you otherwise may not be able to? Some businesses are owned by alumni, some by locals and even some who have just fallen in love with Hamilton and decided to open up a business here. In some way, shape or form, many of us chose Hamilton and revel in its small town atmosphere. Likening it to a Hallmark Christmas town, or even endearing TV show towns like Schitt’s Creek from “Schitt’s Creek” or Stars Hollow from “Gilmore Girls,” do any towns in those examples have franchises? Granted, yes, we have a McDonald’s, Subway and a Dunkin’, but what makes Hamilton so special is the minimal big names taking up space downtown. Downtown is picturesque and special without a large Taco Bell sign. There is something refreshing about options that are not necessarily the fast food that is readily available in most other places.
Speaking of refreshing, the choices we have in town are some that fast food chains do not offer. Hamilton Eatery provides amazing, inventive sandwiches, delicious buffalo mac and cheese, fresh chicken pot pies and salads. The quality, taste and freshness of Hamilton Eatery, and most other food locations, is incomparable considering they cook or bake their products fresh each day.
I have as many reusable Starbucks cups as the next coffee lover, but there is something different about wearing a Flour & Salt hat or a Slices (New York Pizzeria) shirt not only in Hamilton, but in your hometown. There is a sense of pride for my college town that I carry with me whenever I run out in a hat or t-shirt from a Hamilton business. Especially when home for breaks, it feels unique and comforting to wear something that not only other students or alumni can recognize without it screaming ‘COLGATE,’ but also as a piece of yourself you have cultivated by being a patron of these places.
The relationships you make with small businesses, their owners and employees is extremely rewarding, not to mention fun. I cannot say enough about the iconic Dan and Dan of FoJo’s, or talking to the owner of Maxwell’s about her love for cake decorating. Also, Gilligan’s ice cream is amazing — do you think that a Basken-Robbins would have a Raider Passion ice cream flavor? Many Colgate and Hamilton events are marked by food and baked goods from local restaurants and cafes as well — parties with pizza and wings from Slices, free burritos being handed out from Buenos Tacos or a guest speaker featuring catering from RIG (Royal India Grill). The local businesses here have a relationship with this town, the people in Hamilton, Colgate and its students.
You may not agree with me about not needing big name franchises in Hamilton, but to me, something seems so quintessentially small town and college-like to be studying in your local cafe of choice, or grabbing a burrito, slice of pizza or bowl of pho from somewhere that you can bond over with other Colgate students or alumni. It’s a Hamilton thing. A Colgate thing. You will be able to fill yourself up on Moe’s or Dominos when you are home or move somewhere else after college. For now, enjoy these small businesses where so many memories have been made, and the culture of Hamilton and Colgate come into something wonderful — and tasty.