After confirming that they will in fact lose their space in Old Union, The Stanford Free Store’s future remains uncertain. Unless The Free Store finds a new home by the end of the quarter, the heavily valued resource will be dissolved.
Even after overwhelmingly positive support in favor of The Free Store from students, the store has been told it will lose its space in Old Union’s basement. Justin Briggs, fourth-year graduate student and co-director of The Free Store, has been working with Jeanette Smith-Laws, Director of Operations and Student Unions, to retain The Free Store’s location.
Briggs presented to Smith-Laws usage statistics and the positive student opinion gathered by a recent survey, indicating that 86 percent of students consider The Free Store to be a valuable resource. Briggs tried to address various complaints Smith-Laws had with The Free Store by clearing up issues with the janitorial staff, fire marshall and elevator maintenance staff and by working with Students for a Sustainable Stanford to partner with their group.
Smith-Laws, who originally supported and helped create The Free Store, will still be removing The Free Store from its current location, citing that it isn’t fair to other student organizations for the store to have the space.
“She originally gave us a specific list of reasons the store had to leave Old Union,” said Briggs. “But once we had addressed all of these reasons, she then said it didn’t matter to her that we met all the criteria she set forth. She wants us to leave anyway and told us we have until the end of the quarter to figure out where to move the store inventory.”
Briggs and other The Free Store staff members have been searching for alternative locations, such as a space inside a co-op or undergraduate dorm, or a storage space provided by the ASSU.
“Basically, we’re open to anything,” said Briggs. “It would ideally be a centrally-located place where we can run a store, but if we have to, we’re fine just storing everything in a storage space and having pop-up events.”
The trajectory of The Free Store is strikingly similar to that of the Student Wellness Room that used to be located in Old Union as well but was dissolved in 2011 for limited use. Another student initiative that was initially backed by Smith-Laws, the Student Wellness Room provided students a space for general de-stress, relaxation and meditation. The Free Store marks another student initiative that has been discontinued by Old Union.
Unless The Free Store finds a new home, all of the items will be donated, and the store will be dissolved.
“It’s really a sad thing for me,” said Briggs. “It’s sad because I really believe in it. It’s sad because it’s such a great resource that low-income and sustainability-minded community members rely on. So hopefully it’ll be able to live on in some way.”
Contact Jeremy Quach at jquach ‘at’ stanford.edu.