by Sydney Henry ‘20
If you grew up in Olney, you might have experienced the well-known tradition of going to Sakura for someone’s birthday. You can remember the impossible competition to catch a piece of meat in your mouth, or the iconic slice of cheesecake with the umbrella and the cherry on top. But those traditions will no longer take place in Olney. As of Sunday, November 18, Sakura gave up its lease on the location and will soon be replaced by the popular breakfast chain, IHOP.
But this isn’t the first time an Olney business was replaced by something bigger.
Olney is turning into a town mainly defined by corporation businesses and chain restaurants, losing a lot of its small-town feel. Although some may not remember, the shopping center that now contains Harris Teeter, Grill Marx, Panera, and many more, once contained a rundown, locally owned movie theater and the ever-popular deli, B.J. Pumpernickels. Since then, many other stores have moved out of Olney, or closed down all together.
Some students do not like the direction Olney is going in. “I don’t want to see Olney losing the town feel and becoming too crowded and full of chains,” said sophomore Natalie Cavanaugh.
If more businesses and restaurants run by larger corporations continue to replace small businesses, the rent for buildings in Olney will rise. This puts any local owner, who can’t match the rent of larger stores, out of business.
According to an online business leasing company in Olney, an office space available in the same building as Burk & Flinn Orthodontics and across the street from Giant, is leasing for a rental cost of about $33 per square foot, per year. The space is around 2,000 square feet, which adds up to a total rental cost of roughly $66,000 per year.
Out of a sampling of 40 businesses in Olney, 26, or sixty-five percent, are corporations or chain restaurants, and 14, thirty-five percent, are small businesses usually run by local owners.
In a survey by The Warrior that asked students about where they preferred to hang out with friends in Montgomery County, most responded with places outside of Olney. “In places like Rockville and Gaithersburg … they have more stores [for teens],” explained junior Drew Hughes. “Olney is mostly food, banks, and grocery stores.”
As senior Emily Schmidt lamented, “spending money on food is really the only thing to do in Olney.”