The nearest Chipotle franchise is about a 45-minute drive to Adrian, Michigan, and it won’t be getting any closer.
Leading up to renovating the Roche Sports Complex in 2014, Hillsdale College reached out to several fast-food businesses, including Chipotle, to inquire about opening a location on campus. Because of the rural community, however, the restaurants declined the opportunity, Chief Administrative Officer Rich Péwé said. The community does not have enough traffic, they said.
Surplus funds from Student Federation would have matched grants for the project, as a part of the upgrades to the sports complex. When franchises declined, the administration drew up alternative plans with Student Fed for other food options that have yet to be implemented.
“A few years ago, I proposed to Student Federation that they help with funding the second phase: the new arena entry and smoothie bar,” Péwé said. “We were thinking about a smoothie bar or coffee shop arrangement where you could get a snack.”
The cost for a new entry and smoothie bar, however, is nearly $400,000. Lacking the capital, Student Fed gave its surplus funds to Mossey Library for new furniture.
“The smoothie bar was conceived as a way to create another social hub, but the phase one renovations have certainly gone a long way to bringing many more students down to the complex, which was the goal,” Péwé said.
The addition of a smoothie bar or coffee shop is no longer a priority, since other renovations, including upgrades to the workout facilities, succeeded in attracting more students to the sports complex, Péwé said. Other priorities — such as the addition of air-conditioning in the arena, renovations in locker rooms, and replacing the football field turf — are taking precedence, for now.
“We have not felt an urgency to pursue the next phase, so those plans remain dormant,” Péwé said.
Bon Appétit, A.J.’s Café, and Jitters Coffee Cart remain the only on-campus sites to grab a bite to eat. Renovation plans to the Knorr Student Center, however, do include the addition of another café and a pub.
Mary Wolfram, director of the city of Hillsdale’s economic development, said franchises rarely take interest in opening new stores in Hillsdale because of factors like population size, traffic count, and median family incomes.
“If you’re not on a freeway, sometimes they won’t consider you at all,” Wolfram said.
Hillsdale County has a population size of more than 46,000 and is predominantly rural. Annual average daily traffic counts of 14,800 vehicles along Carleton Road in the city of Hillsdale, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation, are low and dissuade most franchises from opening businesses in the area.
“Each franchise has a certain set of metrics in which they function,” Wolfram said. “There’s a cookie-cutter model that they use to open up.”
Senior Eric LaRose, an economics major, expressed disappointment with the lack of interest from food franchises to diversify in the community.
“I think it would a very good thing if more franchises came to Hillsdale, not necessarily on campus, but at least to the town,” LaRose said. “I completely get why it doesn’t make economic sense for Chipotle and similar franchises to locate here, but I’m still personally disappointed they won’t come.”