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RMC convenience store to open next fall

By Ellen Liu     4/7/11 7:00pm

The Rice Memorial Center will replace 13th Street and Smoothie King with a convenience store during the summer, former Student Association President Selim Sheikh announced in Monday's SA meeting.

The store, called REcharge U, will be run by Barnes & Noble and will offer a variety of products, including food and toiletries.

Sheikh, a Martel College senior, said he has been working with Housing and Dining all year. According to Sheikh, many other universities in the nation already have such institutions, and since his freshman year, he has believed that Rice really needed one, too.

Associate Vice President of H&D Mark Ditman said they decided to move forward with Selim's suggestion because he represented the opinion of the student body.

Sheikh noted that RECharge U is a relatively new initiative enacted by Barnes & Noble to compensate for lower textbook sales. It involves installing convenience stores on college campuses that will both sell general products and cater to university-specific needs.

Rice's REcharge U will be the fourth in the nation and the first in Texas, he said. According to Sheikh, it will probably offer dry, frozen and fresh foods; rotating goods; medicine; and toiletries.

The convenience store will replace 13th Street and Smoothie King because the vendor of these businesses, who also provides the food for Sammy's, did not have its contract renewed, Sheikh said. The food service at Sammy's would remain but come from a different, currently undetermined vendor, he said.

Florida International University is one of the schools with a REcharge U. One student there, who prefers to remain anonymous because she is an employee of the university, said REcharge U carries many useful items. However, she added that she only shops there out of necessity and tries not to go too often because of the prices.

For example, she said that a standard Rockstar energy drink that cost about $2 at Walgreen's was around 44 at REcharge U.

In addition, a temporary toothbrush was $3, and a packet of two Tylenol pills cost $7.

Ditman added that the Barnes & Noble and Rice are jointly funding the store, and H&D retains funds for such a reinvestment purpose every year. He also said changes like this were natural over time; seven years ago, 13th Street and Smoothie King used to be a Subway.

"The lifespan of something like this is seven to 10 years," Ditman said. "Down this line, this concept will most likely need to be freshened or replaced."

According to Ditman, the store will contain both standard and Rice-specific items and may stay open during vacations or late at night when the rest of the RMC is closed if H&D sees market interest.

"13th Street was a quantum improvement over Subway, and we feel like this will be another leap that will give us the wow factor," Ditman said.

Current SA President Georgia Lagoudas asked the SA Senate members what they wanted in the store. Answers included frozen yogurt, ramen, fresh sandwiches, among others. Students with additional ideas about the store should send an email to sapres@rice.edu.

Will Rice College freshman Amol Utrankar said he thought the convenience store was a great idea.

"13th Street and Smoothie King are cool, but at the same time, the options are pretty limited compared to what they could do with a convenience store here," Utrankar said.

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