After the opening of Walmart on campus, Auxiliary Services decided to not open up East Side Market this year. Discussions with the Student Advisory Board determined that the limited expected student utilization of it did not warrant keeping the market open.
“We had meetings and conversations with our advisory council, which is primarily made up of students, that suggested we might not need East Side Market. It had a very limited selection and we wanted to encourage students to use Walmart,” said Rich Steele, Senior Director of Auxiliary Services.
East Side would not have been able to compete with Walmart prices down the street, even though the market maintained later hours year round than Walmart.
In addition, the business had not been doing as well as anyone had hoped.
“East Side Market was breakeven, it possibly even lost money. Total sales last year were around $125,000, which is very low, almost 24% below the prior year,” Steele said.
In comparison, East Side’s on campus counterpart West Side Market was regularly 3.5 times busier and able to maintain more consistent business overall. West Side will not be closing this year.
“West side market will continue to operate, sales show that students are using it,” Steele explained.
BuzzBy, which is only open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, is still operating at the same location as East Side Market behind Brittain Dining Hall. Auxiliary services is also currently trying to determine a better location for BuzzBy where there can be a larger seating area.
The possible move, however, would not be to West Campus, as there are no plans for a BuzzBy operation on West Campus.
“It is not determined yet [what the East Side Market space will be used for],” Steele said.
Student reactions have been mixed in response to East Side Market not opening this year.
“I didn’t know [East Side closed]. It doesn’t really phase me since I… only ever went to East Side once,” said Luis Cortes, a second-year BMED major.
“Wait what? They closed East Side. They can’t do that it was my life,” said Julia Falvey, second-year BA major.
Some students have already replaced Walmart with other options after East Side closed for other reasons.
“The Walmart in Tech Square has a larger variety of choices at a reasonable price than the East Campus Market. But I don’t think it is in a central location in comparison to that side of campus as the market was,” said Eli Black, second-year BA major.
“Who cares about the [Walmart] prices! [West Side] is close by and makes a great place to go buy midnight snack. Plus they sell ready made food from many different ethnicities, so great place for comfort food. West Side Market really stumps East Side, that’s why it closed,” said Pulkit Agarwal, a third-year ME major.
According to Auxiliary Services, East Side Market was only meant to be an interim establishment after the convenience store that was once located at North Ave. closed. It was never meant to be a long term establishment.
In fact, the closing of East Side Market was all according to plan—not a surprise to many as Walmart on campus provided the perfect opportunity for this transition.
One option being looked into, according to Rich Steele, is an automated convenience store model, which would have 10-12 robotic vending machines outdoors.
The issue with this model is that wherever this is located—on East Campus or anywhere else on campus—it would be very expensive.