Amid an increase in student population on campus this year, the surrounding Gambier and Mount Vernon communities are experiencing significant labor shortages, particularly affecting retail and service industries.
As Kenyon students, we’ve all lamented the delayed opening of Chilitos, the short hours at the Village Market and unexpected closings of the Deli this semester. But we must give grace to these businesses in their time of struggle. While it’s important to patronize these businesses — especially after a year of economic downturn due to the pandemic — it’s also necessary to be cognizant and forgiving of their current limitations.
Our community is not alone in its staffing problem. Around the country, restaurants are seeing a large influx of customers after they faced over a year of lockdowns and various restrictions. However, people are much less willing to work long, tedious hours in the service industry due to low pay, fear of contracting COVID-19 and a lack of childcare services, leading some businesses to temporarily or permanently shut down due to low staffing.
Gambier in particular has gone through a huge adjustment with the arrival of a full student body. Chilitos has been closed since May, the Market’s hours have been drastically reduced and the Kenyon Inn restaurant is closed due to staffing issues. Many restaurants in downtown Gambier have had to transition from a year with minimal service due to COVID-19 restrictions to over-full capacity for serving a larger student population. This transition meant that employees are working longer hours, and, in some cases, are working full time at what was a part-time job.
There are reports that the Kenyon Bookstore staff is overworked as well. With the Market closing at 6 p.m. daily, students are frequenting the Bookstore more often in the later hours in search of late-night snacks.
All of this is to say that our community’s workers are struggling significantly. We must be conscious of the fact that there are faces behind these businesses who are being overworked. We sometimes forget that Kenyon would not exist without these members of the community — restaurant and retail staff, AVI workers and the Maintenance Department are all vital contributors to the community, and they are the reasons why Kenyon runs smoothly. It’s easy to get caught up in complaining about long waits and limited business hours, but we must extend a little more patience to those who are working so hard behind the scenes.
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Jordy Fee-Platt ’22 and Linnea Mumma ’22, managing editor Amanda Pyne ’22 and executive director Joe Wint ’22. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.