By Jacqueline Hyman
Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
When my roommates and I first visited the Terrapin Row leasing office last year, there was an enthusiastic guarantee that there were going to be useful, interesting stores filling the retail spaces below the apartments. We were told there may be a Panera Bread, among other restaurants, and even a small grocery store. And above all, we were told the spaces would most likely be filled by August 2016, when we were set to move in.
Nothing like that has come to the storefronts so far. In February, an Amazon store opened below Building A, but no other spaces have been filled. In May, The Diamondback wrote that a Korean restaurant is scheduled to open this year – but as of yet, there are no signs of construction on that front. Even though the potential retail spaces weren’t the main draw in deciding to sign a lease with Terrapin Row, they were definitely an exciting bonus.
Now, with at least three retail spaces still empty, the question isn’t just when will they get filled, but what will fill them? It would be extremely helpful to many students nearby if Terrapin Row added a kosher grocery store. According to Maryland Hillel, there are about 6,500 Jewish students on campus. These students could really benefit from having a kosher grocery store nearby.
In general, it is extremely difficult for students to find kosher options on or near campus. It’s even more difficult to find things in walking distance. The Commons Shop on South Campus has a small shelf stocked with kosher apple juice and soups, and Target Express has a shelf with kosher soups and what look like kosher-for-Passover jellies. Grocery stores like Shoppers, to which you have to drive, have a larger selection, but still not enough to cook full meals every week. No kosher meat, no kosher dairy, just nonperishable items. For students without a Hillel dining plan, these boxed and canned foods don’t offer enough nutrients to support a healthy, balanced diet.
And most students don’t have cars on campus. Every week, I see posts in the Jewish groups on Facebook where students ask others if they’re making a trip to Shalom’s or Kosher Mart anytime soon. Shalom Kosher in Kemp Mill is the closest grocery store, and that’s about a 30 minute drive from College Park. Students shouldn’t have to travel so far just to feed themselves.
Many Jewish students live on South Campus or somewhere along Knox Road because of their proximity to Hillel, so Terrapin Row would be a great location for a kosher store. One of the empty spaces below Building A is quite spacious, and could probably host a large variety of kosher products, including meats and dairy foods. This easy access would mean shorter grocery trips and better time management for students who already have busy schedules.
Even residents who don’t keep kosher could make use of the grocery store, which would be very helpful if they need a few items here and there or just want some snacks. A kosher grocery store would give shopping options to both kosher and nonkosher residents while filling up Terrapin Row’s empty spaces and making the building more aesthetically pleasing. Right now, walking past the dust-filled rooms is a disappointment, and I’m sure people would be excited that something was finally going to occupy the retail spaces that have had ads on the windows for over a year.
Jacqueline is a senior journalism and English major. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.