Few things are as soul-sucking as living in the suburbs. Suburban life is a cosmic joke. Every waking moment is spent in complete security and relative comfort, yet it is all filled with sadness—the special type of sadness which masquerades as happiness and fun and superiority. I worry UNR campus life is slowly going to sink into this kind of sadness.
Growing up in the suburbs, I could count the number of local businesses in my area on one hand. There was a video store, a Japanese restaurant, a taco shop and nothing else. There were, however, seemingly a thousand chain-restaurants and fast-food joints and Chevron gas stations. I was too young to realize at the time how boring this life was. After the recession hit and my family got poorer, I moved into less suburban areas. Poverty sucks, but getting to know the local places in my neighborhood did not. When I’d visit my family in rural Texas, once again I was exposed to the beauty and passion of businesses run by people, not corporations. Finally, when I started going to college in Reno, I was confronted with the highest concentration of local stores and restaurants and other businesses I’d ever seen. It was glorious.
Many of these businesses have faded away since I got here.
Specifically, many of the places near campus I’d grown to love have gone away. Bibo’s on Record Street, Hub University, The U and GourMelt have all departed recently. I fear more could follow suit.
What’s come in their stead? A burger chain? A sushi-burrito chain? A Panera Bread (eventually)? Up the road on Virginia Street, a Raising Canes and Ike’s Love and Sandwiches are also newcomers to the area. None are local. None are things you can’t get anywhere else. None of them make the area feel any different than a California shopping center or Las Vegas food court. I love some good mass produced food like anybody else, but where is the balance? Where is the new local joint distinguishing our campus from anywhere else?
UNR campus culture is dying. Every time a business closes, the memories made there are erased from existence. If my little brother goes to UNR, he’ll never get to experience a Brushfire open mic at Bibo’s or meeting up with friends at The U on the weekends. The legacy of these places—much of which was central to Wolf Pack culture—dies with the class of 2023. It’s a lot harder to make memories in a Panera Bread.
Fault lies with all of us. I cheered when The Habit came to the Joe Crowley Student Union. I showed up on day one for the new Raising Canes. We all think these are things we want. They are nice and safe and comfortable and familiar. They are also the death of our identity, the death of our ability to distinguish ourselves from any other person who grew up in the loveless suburban strip malls and is passively watching their campus’ slow pastiche of those American cultural dead-zones.