The taste of Kent

Sarah James

Taking a bite out of my Taco Tontos burrito last Saturday night, I thought to myself- “Wow, if Kent had a taste, this most certainly would be it.”

Taco Tontos, located at 123 Franklin Ave., is a locally owned and operated Mexican restaurant that takes pride in providing great food without processed ingredients. When I eat there, I feel as if I am supporting more than a business, more than my appetite.

When you support local businesses, you’re supporting your community and its progress. It is reassuring to know the money I spend at local businesses goes almost directly into the pocket of the person I handed it to and not to some fat-cat CEO miles and miles away.

When you support local businesses, the money you spend is funneled back into the local economy. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Friends of Midcoast Maine, three times as much money stays in the local economy when you buy from mom and pop instead of the big-box store down the street.

Sipping on espresso from Scribbles Coffee, located at 237 North Water St., tastes all the better because I know the money I spend is helping the owner directly instead of helping Starbucks come out with their next viral ad campaign. Scribbles’ coffee is 100 percent fair trade and roasted here in Ohio. In addition to coffee, Scribbles sells used books and screen-printed apparel created by the owner herself. The atmosphere is incredibly cozy, and they even have a fireplace for customers to stay warm during the colder months.

From June to October, the Haymaker Farmers’ Market is a great place to buy local produce. Held on the corner of Franklin and Summit streets, the market offers a chance to buy foods grown close to your ZIP code, reducing fuel costs. At farmers markets, you are also given the chance to ask questions about the produce you are buying and able to match a face to the food you are eating.

This all seems extremely relevant with the closing of Susan’s Coffee and Tea late last month and restaurant franchise Five Guys Burgers and Fries taking its place. The company is currently opening its 399th and 400th locations in Texas and Mayfield. The former Susan’s employees were offered jobs at Susan’s Akron location or to be trained to work at the Five Guys restaurant – at the Montrose location.

Perhaps I am biased because I have worked at local businesses ever since I entered the workforce at age 16. Customers tell me frequently how much they appreciate stores like mine because of the personalized services we offer. Big-box stores rarely offer one-on-one guidance with projects, and they certainly don’t know customers by name.

At the end of the day, I know the person writing my paychecks. To her, I am not a number; I am a person. My ideas are valued, and the store is a reflection of all who are employed there.

Places like Wal-Mart, Chipotle and McDonalds do not make a community unique.

Without its local businesses, Kent would be a very dull and homogenized place. Businesses like Taco Tontos and Scribbles Coffee give Kent local flavor unlikely to be found anywhere else.

Sarah James is a sophomore public relations major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].