With midterms approaching, students in need of extra sugar will be delighted to learn that Almost Famous Sweets and Sodas, a candy store located in downtown Mount Vernon, has joined an ever-growing list of businesses now accepting K-Cards. The Office for Community Partnerships announced in their email that five other Mount Vernon businesses (Fat Dog Vinyl, Summit Axe Throwing, Half Baked Cafe, Cindy’s Pierogies and Georgetown Caribbean BBQ) are in the various stages of becoming K-Card partners.
Every Kenyon student is given a K-Card that serves as a student ID and allows admission into buildings on campus like residence halls and the athletic facilities in the Lowry Center. K-Cards also work like debit cards that can be used at select businesses in the area, such as the bookstore and Wiggin Street Coffee. Currently, eight businesses in Gambier and nine businesses in the local Mount Vernon area — Almost Famous Sweets and Sodas included — accept K-Cards as payment.
To become a K-Card partner, a business must first contact Jan Thomas, the Director of Community Partnerships. From there, the process is continued through CBORD, a third-party technology company that works with Kenyon to run the K-Card program. According to Thomas, the basic process to accept K-Cards is relatively quick and easy, although she noted that more businesses have not joined the K-Card program due to the steep costs that come with it. Businesses must pay a $350 account activation fee while also paying $30 a month along with a 4% interchange rate — a price that can be daunting for many Knox County small business owners. Thomas said that this price is mostly determined by the cost of the physical card reader and is out of the hands of the Office for Community Partnerships (OCP), though she noted that she and the OCP are trying to figure out a way to lower the entry fee, either through grants or group discounts.
Thomas hopes that the increasing number of K-Card partners will encourage Kenyon students to visit Mount Vernon more often and expressed her excitement at the fact that this is the first time a group of businesses have been interested as a collective. “Having one or two merchants down there that take a K-Card is good, but if there were four or five that were within a couple of blocks of each other, then that might even be more incentive for students to want to go and check it out,” she said. One such merchant is Almost Famous Sweets and Sodas, whose participation in the program has proved to be a profitable endeavor thus far. According to Assistant Director of Community Partnerships Alyssa Gómez Lawrence ’10, the candy store was able to cover their monthly fee using the money it earned from sales on the first weekend it accepted K-Cards.
Gómez Lawrence noted that she hopes that this is just the beginning and that a snowball effect will follow. “If we’re talking about dreaming big, then it would be great if we could get as many small businesses that we could to jump on the K-Card,” she said. As the email stated, the more Kenyon students who shop at the K-Card partner stores, the more encouraged local businesses will be to sign up for the program. “The more of that we see, the more other places will try out the K-Card and see if they can insert themselves into our students’ lives,” she said. She noted that the more businesses join the program the more incentive students will have to step outside the Kenyon bubble. “We’ve been able to show the community what Kenyon students and professors have to offer, and we’d like to make it the other way around to get students more into exploring downtown,” she said. Thomas summarized the office’s attitudes with a simple phrase: “The more the better!”
The next business to accept K-Cards will be Fat Dog Vinyl, which is slated to join the program in the next few weeks. The other four stores that have expressed interest in joining are at various stages of the process — some are in talks with CBORD and others have simply expressed interest with Thomas. In the meantime, Thomas also encouraged students to contact the Office for Community Partnerships if they want the office to touch base with their favorite Knox County businesses about the K-Card partner program.