Verbum Ultimum: Dollars for our Diners

Dartmouth must support Hanover businesses.

by THE DARTMOUTH EDITORIAL BOARD | 5/15/20 2:00am

“Want to go for gelato at Morano?” 

Historically, that’s a phrase you could hear all around campus at all times of the day. But on May 8, Morano Gelato announced that, due to financial stress caused by COVID-19, the shop would be closing their doors permanently. The news of Morano’s closing was quickly met with disappointment as the Dartmouth community faced the loss of a beloved Hanover staple.

With quarantine dragging on for months and no end in sight, other Hanover businesses may soon meet the same fate as Morano Gelato. The town of Hanover is full of small, local businesses that rely on the Dartmouth community to stay afloat, and with campus abandoned, revenue is scarce.

We all benefit from Hanover’s local businesses. It’s time for the College to step in and help keep local business afloat until the crisis abates. To this end, we encourage Dartmouth to issue advance payments to local Hanover businesses with the expectation that they will carry out future services.

This may be a small step, but the College already purchases goods and services from local businesses throughout the year. By contracting and paying for those services now, the College can deliver businesses much-needed cash flow at little cost to itself.

Dartmouth has an intimate relationship with the town of Hanover. Geographically, there is little separation — Dartmouth offices and residences are mixed together with local shops along Main Street. The College is defined by its small town feel. And though Hanover may be small, it has what students need: a grocery store, a bank and restaurants to satisfy our non-DDS food cravings. Students depend on the town, and the town depends on students. This symbiotic relationship spells out the core argument for financial support: Without the town, the College suffers.

Morally, we owe it to the shopkeepers and the employees of Hanover to support them in times of economic hardship. While each business has a name and a brand unto itself, many go out of their way to support the College and create a college town atmosphere. Consider the Dartmouth Co-Op, whose entire business revolves around selling Dartmouth merchandise, or Molly’s, whose walls are studded with Dartmouth memorabilia.

Even if the moral obligation argument isn’t hitting home, it is indisputable that it is in the College’s best interest to keep the town of Hanover alive and well. Let’s face it: Dartmouth is in the middle of nowhere. This reality would become even more pronounced if suddenly we lost all the aspects of a community that make it a fun place to live. Readily available ice cream, restaurants and clothing boutiques are key players in creating this environment.

In light of this, we propose a Dartmouth COVID-19 financial assistance program that will help support local Hanover businesses. Morano may be gone for good, but we have the means to protect the other Main Street businesses from meeting the same fate.

We propose that the College pay upfront what it would usually spend at local businesses throughout the year, generating a much-needed revenue boost at a time when sales have nearly ground to a halt.

The College can determine how much it usually spends at each establishment and contract upfront. Though this would come at a small cost to the College — akin to giving an interest-free loan to Hanover businesses. It’s the least Dartmouth can do to stop other Hanover fixtures from going the way of Morano.

It may seem that Dartmouth should be directing their immediate finances elsewhere, perhaps into maintaining financial aid for students in these challenging times. We do not dispute that Dartmouth has other financial priorities that may take precedence. But supporting our local Hanover businesses is a long-term investment that will help maintain Dartmouth’s unique environment and atmosphere for years to come.We are ensuring that, 50 years from now, alumni will be able to come back, take a seat at Lou’s and indulge in their favorite memories of College life. If the places that hold our memories are forced to close, we stand to lose much more than just a storefront. And it’s not like Dartmouth is just giving away their tuition dollars. The same amount of money would be put towards these businesses in the near future — we simply propose expediting this process. 

As the closing of Morano Gelato demonstrated, coronavirus is hitting Hanover hard. If we want to keep Hanover as we know it, Dartmouth has a responsibility to offer financial help to local businesses in need.

The editorial board consists of opinion staff columnists, the opinion editors, the executive editors and the editor-in-chief.