Opinion: Corporate vs. local businesses isn’t a clear decision for college students

The new Dunkin’ in downtown Iowa City poses a dilemma of living inexpensively and supporting community.


Megan Conroy

The new Dunkin’ Donuts sign can be seen on Clinton St. on Sunday, August 25. (Megan Conroy/The Daily Iowan)

Kasey Baller, Columnist

As the 2019 school year made its début, so did the downtown Dunkin’. Speaking from personal experience as a student, I realize how vital coffee is to the daily lives of those on campus. Many college students rely on caffeine to get them through sleep-deprived days full of classes, events, and jobs. 

On one hand, Dunkin’ sounds like a winner for those looking to save money. On the other hand, purchasing coffee from downtown Iowa City coffee shops supports local businesses. Pricing is really the only difference between these businesses.

At the end of the day, these coffee shops supply you with the same product, so how do you decide?

Dunkin’ is positive for students’ bank accounts compared to the typical $5 coffee. It is also a place where everyone can get what they want based on their dietary restrictions. They have vegan, vegetarian, and calorie-friendly options for their food and drinks. For those who run on tight schedules, which are most college students, Dunkin’ is fast and easy.

To save yourself even more time, Dunkin’ offers a mobile pre-order which lets customers order anything ahead of time and it will be ready most likely before arriving there. The more customers order with the app, the more points they accumulate over time, which gets you free drinks and discounts. It also happens to be a pretty tasty place.

Despite all the positives about Dunkin’, purchasing from the company takes away from supporting local business. Local businesses need community support to stay open. Coffee shops such as Prairie Lights, Cortado, and Java House have a comfortable and cozy vibe compared to Dunkin’s standing-room-only area. The store is an order-and-go type of business so you cannot stay and do homework or even enjoy your food or drink there as there are no tables to do so. Even if you wanted to stay at Dunkin’ to do your homework in the evening or have a late-night finals-week study session, you cannot as Dunkin’ does not stay open past 6 p.m.

Despite all the positives about Dunkin’, purchasing from the company takes away from supporting local business.

Even more than the stylistic differences, there really is something to the “support local business” point. Whether it’s a coffee shop or a hardware store, brands with just one or two stores are invested in their community much more than a corporate giant such Dunkin’, which has more than 11,000 locations in 36 countries, according to their company websiteIf everyone took the cheapest option every time, many local businesses would fail and our vibrant downtown would be overrun with monotonous multinational brands.

Obviously, you are not a bad person simply for purchasing Dunkin’. And, of course, you are not automatically a good person for frequenting local coffee shops. There are reasons that make sense for everyone to choose which business they support. Next time you get coffee, I hope these pros and cons will help you make the best decision for you.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.