Column by Hallie Beard, Opinion Editor
Since coming to Murray State as a freshman, my main critical question about this town has remained the same: why, as a small college town, don’t we have more successful local business that are culturally relevant, diverse in product and alluring to both students and citizens?
Admittedly, the biggest gap I’m thinking of concerns food. I love food, and I love ethnic cuisine – in Louisville, if I want to have Indian, Ethiopian or local/organic hippie food, the options are endless. In Murray, the arm of non-American cuisine only reaches about as far as the Mexican border or some commercialized fantasy-land of general “Asia” (Jasmine is great, but far from authentic enough to push any boundaries).
It seems that, whenever something pops up that seems at all diverse, it disappears before it can catch on. Anyone remember that yoga studio and juice bar combo next to the tattoo shop? Yeah, that lasted a hot ashtanga minute.
Even Mary’s Kitchen – which was by no means a place for a sophisticated palate, but boy did they have some good 3 a.m. pancakes – has closed during my short college career here, and what has replaced its general absence? Corporate chains. The Arby’s, the hotels, the Panera – they’re all fine, but where’s the local flavor?
Though Paducah is not on my list of favorite cities and the beer they produce is highly underwhelming, I appreciate the city’s support of the arts and independent businesses. Go downtown in Paducah and you’ll see murals by the river, art galleries, coffee shops, unique restaurants and plenty of chains to go around, too. What does our downtown have? Well, there’s that one decent pizza place, a Christian bookstore and the statue of Jefferson Davis.
For the record, I have no problem with the Christian bookstore. I have a problem with a town that houses a university lacking an expansive (preferably independent) bookseller. The University Store just doesn’t cut it for the average reader, and neither do the few incense-infused bookshelves at Terrapin Station (shout out to that place, you’re all right, actually).
I understand Murray locals are extremely protective of this town and what it has to offer, so they might be unwilling to accept my complaints as legitimate. That’s justified – when anyone from outside of Louisville criticizes the city, I automatically feel my hackles raise.
Also note I fully appreciate what quaint, quirky little local places we do have. It’s just that I wish we could have more of them, and that they were more popular among the college crowd. For example, Willow Bistro (formerly Gloria’s) probably has the best food in Murray, period, and they have a quality selection of non-American cuisine made fresh. I adore that restaurant, but its prices hinder me from going there as often as I wish. Plus, I’ve never seen more than maybe four people there at a time – usually, when I go, I’m alone in a starkly quiet room.
If only we could combine the quality of a place like Willow Bistro, the eccentricity of Terrapin Station and the coffee grounds of Gigabites with the popularity and friendliness of a place like Mr. J’s Grill and Pub.
Murray has expanded exponentially since my siblings attended in the early 2000s and my parents, the 1970s. But, isn’t it a little drab – again, talking about a college town where the university is the epicenter of the city – that places like The Hungry Bear and Sirloin Stockade outlive more adventurous businesses? I think we’ve got enough angus and “home cookin’” in this place to keep us plump and patriotic, but it wouldn’t hurt to shake things up for a change. And to keep shaking them up for a long, long time.