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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Drinks for All (of Age): Spotlight on Stinson’s Village Store

One writer explores the history of Stinson’s Village Store and the diversity of Dartmouth student experiences there.

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“Credit or debit?” Jack Stinson asks his next customer at the Stinson’s Village Store’s front counter, pausing our interview to ring up local cheese and a soda. 

The little store on Allen Street boasts a selection of local IPAs and ciders to rival any thirty-something beer connoisseur’s collection, and stepping into the store is a trip through Dartmouth history. Stinson, the store’s owner, displays Christmas cards from sororities and fraternities behind the cash register, the letters of every Greek house on the opposite wall and a skateboard from the local skate park he helped to fund. It is an unspoken rule that Dartmouth students know not to use false identification at Stinson’s, with multiple student arrests proving this lore correct.

The history of the store feels palpable in the rows of coolers that seem to be from a time when Dartmouth’s beer of choice was not Keystone, but Milwaukee’s Best, “The Beast.” Stinson’s parents opened the Village Store in September 1978, and it’s been serving the Hanover community ever since.

Despite the nostalgia for a time twenty years before my birth (I might have seen a few too many John Hughes films), Stinson’s has seen a lot of change from its conception to its purpose now. Although students know it as the store that sells 30-packs of Keystone and Twisted Tea Tall Boys, Stinson’s once primarily functioned as a deli and small grocery store.

“We used to do 50 cases of groceries [a week],” Stinson said, pointing across the store. “That whole 30-pack cooler over there was laundry detergent.” 

Stinson’s transitioned away from food services several years ago due to lower demand after the COVID-19 pandemic and Stinson’s age making it harder to run a grocery store. In the years since, the store has become more reliant on its other products, like 30-packs of beer, wine, tobacco products and other controlled substances.

Stinson said it can be difficult to rely on these products for the store’s main profits, since the margins will be “really tight.” 

Although Stinson has no problem metaphorically moving the product — as fraternities and sororities can ask for dozens of 30-packs of beer on any given ‘on-night’ — he did speak to increasing difficulty physically moving the cases himself. The solution? Hire the customer. Stinson’s has been hiring Dartmouth students to move around cases of beer and kegs for almost as long as the store has been open.

Today, the tradition of hiring students lives on at the Village Store.

Stephen Droppa ’26 started working at Stinson’s at the end of the 2023 winter term. He found out about the job from some friends who worked at the store, and the rest is history.

“When you’re doing school all week, my brain gets tired. It’s nice to go in and just stack beer,” he said.

Droppa then told one of his friends, Zhoucai Ni ’24, about the opportunity at Stinson’s too. With help only needed for a few hours a week, Ni sees it as a flexible job and a “cool experience.”

“I usually work from 5 to 7:30 p.m. … Jack appreciates all the work and hours he can get,” Ni said.

A day in the life of a Stinson’s employee isn’t anything extraordinary. Droppa appreciates “just going in [to the store] and stacking beer,” but he also noted the social nature of working for Stinson.

“I get invited to quite a few events because of [the job],” he said, “because I’m the one loading up the 30-racks for every frat that stops by.”

Although the average day in the life of a Stinson’s employee might feel rote, the store boasts a reputation for one cherished tradition — the 21st birthday pong paddle. Any Dartmouth student, on their twenty-first birthday, can enter Stinson’s, show the cashier their I.D. and receive one free pong paddle.

Stinson explained the origin of the tradition. 

“My parents used to do cakes and I tried to learn how to decorate a cake … but my mother didn’t think I was meticulous enough … so I revolted and I said, well, we’ll give ’em a paddle.” he said. 

He also noted that by incentivizing students to wait to come into the store until their 21st birthday, it cuts down on the number of students misrepresenting their age to buy controlled substances. 

“It’s helped some people recognize that they [shouldn’t] come in with a fake I.D., and then come back two weeks later and try to get their paddle,” Stinson said.

But Stinson’s free pong paddles haven’t stopped some students from trying to purchase alcohol underage, despite its reputation for being strict on proper identification. I spoke to two anonymous students, a member of the Class of 2024 and a member of the Class of 2025, about their experiences getting caught using a fake I.D. at Stinson’s.

The ’24 went to Stinson’s to purchase alcohol in Spring 2021.

“I had heard one thing, while I was walking there ... [that Jack Stinson] is not the greatest about [accepting fake I.D.s],” the ’24 said.

Stinson spoke to his policies, as “[their] first responsibility” at the store is “to sell to of age people.” If not, state liquor inspectors have a three strike policy, and the store will be shut down.

When the ’24 went into the store, she had a conversation with Stinson, but checking out proved to be a harrowing process. She presented Stinson with her false form of identification.

“I go to check out, he takes my I.D., and he looked at it for a little while, and he said ‘I’m not used to Florida I.D.s, let me just check the book and call my colleague,’ so he pulls open a book and I guess compares it to the book, and calls his colleague,” she recounted. “But he’s actually calling the police.” 

The ’25 who tried to purchase from Stinson’s had a similar experience when he tried to purchase a bottle of wine.

“I went straight to the register,” he said. “I handed the wine to Mr. Stinson … and I gave him false identification. He asked me if he could verify it, via some sort of phone service … and then next thing I know I turned around and there's like a police officer right behind me.”

Both students called the experience “stressful” and “frightening” as they worried about the future of their status at Dartmouth and their criminal records. 

The ’24 said that when the police arrived, “they were kind and understanding,” and told her about the Valley Court Diversions program in White River Junction. The ’25 also participated in the Diversions program. 

The program’s website states their mission as “strengthen[ing] our communities by promoting accountability, repair, reconciliation, and support for those who have caused harm or been affected by it.” They allow offenders to wipe their record clean of a misdemeanor through “meetings on zoom” and “at least one meeting with an alcohol counselor,” according to the ’25. 

From 2021 to 2023, Stinson’s has seen 43 arrests for the crime of misrepresenting age, peaking with 6 arrests in July 2023 and 5 arrests in August 2023, based on data provided by the Hanover Police Department, demonstrating Stinson’s zero tolerance policy for underage purchases of alcohol. 

Although an arrest can frighten students, it does not ultimately prevent them from returning to the beloved store. The ’24 has been back to Stinson’s since turning 21, while the ’25 has not.

“I think we repaired the relationship,” she said, “I have no ill will toward [Jack Stinson] except for the fact that I was stressed for two months.”

The moral of the story? Wait for your 21st birthday and celebrate with a free pong paddle and a legal ability to purchase from Jack Stinson. The lore of Stinson’s has marked it as a staple of Hanover and Dartmouth culture.