A Call to Action: In-Person Students Must Support Local Businesses

Charlie Bonney, Managing Editor

In December of 2020, I wrote an article about the struggles that local businesses are enduring. I focused on Mona Lisa’s, the local pizza restaurant that many CRLS students hold dear. The pandemic has had a devastating impact on businesses such as this establishment. The lack of foot traffic from Harvard and CRLS nearly put Mona Lisa’s out of business in December. A community effort through GoFundMe helped raise over $6,500 to save the business from the seemingly inevitable end that so many businesses have met in the past year. Thankfully, Mona Lisa’s was saved—at least for the time being. The owner, Mohamed Omara, was incredibly grateful for the support, but the money will not last forever. He estimates the restaurant can survive until the spring with reduced traffic and the money raised. That is why CRLS students, roughly a third of whom have signed up for in-person, should strongly consider eating lunch out whenever they are at school if they want local businesses to still be there when they return to school in the fall.

If CRLS students who supported these businesses before the pandemic continue to support them as they trickle back to school, then they will survive; if not, there will be that many fewer community lunch options than before.”

Of course, eating out is not an option for many CRLS students, especially during a period of exacerbated economic struggle for so many families. While this is the case for many students, there is certainly a large enough cohort at the school with the resources to help support local businesses. These businesses, primarily Harvard Market, Mona Lisa’s, Angelo’s, and to a lesser extent Broadway Market and Darwin’s, exist to serve the CRLS community. If CRLS students who supported these businesses before the pandemic continue to support them as they trickle back to school, then they will survive; if not, there will be that many fewer community lunch options than before.

The new CRLS schedule for the indefinite future enables students to return home for lunch. Most students are expected to be in class remotely; for most students that means at home, at 1:15, so many have the opportunity to return home and make themselves something to eat. There is nothing wrong with eating at home—in fact, it is probably cheaper and healthier in most cases—but it also hurts those businesses that have relied on students as a large percentage of customers. If every CRLS student attending in-person school made the decision to eat out at one of the businesses around CRLS a quarter or half of their days in school, that would make a significant difference. It is especially important that as many students as possible contribute while a majority of students and teachers alike are still permanently remote. With plans for high school students to return fully in-person (although that is still up in the air), hopefully, CRLS students will slip into the routine of supporting the businesses around CRLS again. Until then, students must continue the push that began with the GoFundMe for Mona Lisa’s in December of 2020. 

The future of the local businesses around CRLS and around Cambridge is in the hands of their customers. If students want to have the option to eat somewhere other than the cafeteria next year, then they can ensure that happens—if not, then the restaurants that make the CRLS community so great may meet their impending fate.