Call it cold-blooded exploitation or good ol’ American capitalism – the Gao Pindur Cantina is open for business and it is rapidly outpacing the decades-old Senior Snack Shop.
Since 1983, the Senior Snack Shop has been a tradition at the Ojai Valley School.
“Here’s a great story for you,” said Senior Snack Shop founder and Head of School Craig Floyd. “The class of 83, which I was a part of… just decided to start selling snacks. From nine to ten, after study hall, was social hour and we just had it in the caf and everyone would come and buy snacks. It was a way for us to raise funds for the Senior Class gift.”
Mr. Floyd understands the entrepreneurial spirit of the Snack Shop’s inception and has a vested interest in its longevity.
So, when Mr. Floyd received a proposal from junior Mark Pindur on January 23 he understood there was a need not being met. Mark’s proposal detailed a competitor Snack Shop run by himself and classmate Ethan Gao. The so called “Gao Pindur Cantina” would pick up the slack where Mark believed the Senior Snack Shop was failing, and in doing so regulate the OVS snack market.
In an act that encouraged competition to his brainchild, Mr. Floyd gave his blessing for the Cantina.
“There is a need of some type to offer some kind of food service in the evening, so I said go ahead,” Mr. Floyd explained.
Mark’s initial idea to start a new snack service came from the lack of awareness surrounding the original store.
“At first I realized the Senior Snack Shop just wasn’t happening,” Mark described. “But I soon realized just how much of OVS culture new students were missing. They didn’t even know of the Senior Snack Shop, and it just felt unfair to rid them of that opportunity.”
Some seniors would contest this perspective, stating that the Senior Snack Shop has been open since the beginning of the year, selling snacks on Thursdays and some Wednesdays in the Village and the cafeteria.
However, regardless of whether it has been open or not, many new students don’t know it exists. Senior Snack Shop manager Margo Eramova has noted a downturn in sales but posits that the sales have more to do with biweekly Thursday town trips than the Cantina.
“I never knew about the Senior Snack Shop. No advertisements or anything,” freshman Andy Wang noted. “They [The Gao Pindur Cantina] advertise it better, and they bring it to me, and it’s just more convenient.”
However, freshman Hyun Ung Choi stated, “I have purchased from both, but they [The Cantina] deliver to my door.”
And, if convenience is king, the Cantina is certainly the reigning monarch.
On Thursday nights Mark and Ethan deliver snacks door to door in Tower and Boney Bean dorms, using a cart. They bring laminated menus to dormers, charge virtually nothing, and make it nearly impossible for the seniors to compete.
Most recently, they have expanded their sales to the girls Village as well.
They even tailored their menu to their customers by sending out a survey asking what snacks people would like to see. But what keeps customers coming back is the Cantina’s low prices.
In fact, the snacks are so affordable even some of the seniors have accepted the Cantina. Senior and ASB President Aaron Wolf stated, “Honestly Senior Snack Shop is just overpriced.”
Every year in order to receive their privileges, like not going to breakfast or skipping the lunch line, seniors must demonstrate that the Snack Shop is running and that their class gift is in the works. This incentive was enough to make seniors this year get the Snack Shop off the ground in the beginning of the year.
“It was working for like the first month or two, but after we got back from break senioritis set in,” senior Olivia Brown said.
Other seniors shared similar sentiments.
“It honestly just doesn’t feel important to us,” said Megan Manion, one of the Senior Snack Shop managers. “Once we had our privileges it wasn’t a priority.”
Megan said she is not bothered by the Gao Pindur Cantina’s existence.
But this opinion is not shared by all in the senior class. Some are unperturbed, some are okay with the Cantina but unhappy with the assertion that its existence was necessitated by the seniors lack of motivation, and others are frustrated and confused by its approval in the first place.
“As a senior who is in charge of the Senior Snack Shop I feel like they are exploiting this opportunity to make money and they are stealing our business,” senior Joshua Hsu explained. “But as a student and friend I am proud of them for having the business mindset and supporting their junior class.”
Even though some seniors say that the Snack Shop has been running, there is a feeling among many that nothing has been happening.
“The seniors have just dropped the ball,” said Dana Quinn, assistant to Mr. Floyd. “They [The Gao Pindur Cantina] are giving them a run for their money.”
Mark and Ethan assert that they began as simply troubled Snack Shop patrons, explaining in their proposal: “I (Mark) distinctly remember asking about it [the failures of the Senior Snack Shop] at the first Student Leadership meeting before the start of school, and the responses from seniors were very promising to me.”
But the Snack Shop has long been one of the pillars of senior class fundraising, and the Cantina is a threat to the class’ budget. The idea that providing snacks after study hall falls wholly under the purview of the senior class has been, for many years, simply ordained by the school.
But the Cantina and its aggressive re-regulation of the snack market has changed the way all snack related business is done at OVS.
Instead of all snack income going directly to the senior class, the money is now in the hands of Ethan and Mark. These enterprising capitalists do intend to give 25% of their profits to the junior class in preparation for next year’s senior gift. However, it is important to note that 100% of Senior Snack Shop profits go towards the senior gift.
Despite the fact that he will soon be a senior, Ethan said that he sees no reason that the Cantina should morph into the Snack Shop in the next school year meaning that next year the senior class will potentially just make 25% of the money it could have if the Cantina never opened.
Mark and Ethan like to keep their business discrete. They refused to give any statements before consulting one another and said, “We do not negotiate with the media,” as well as, “All information will be available come tax season.”
But Mark and Ethan argue that as a business they are entitled to a certain degree of privacy, in the same way that the Snack Shop doesn’t have to release reports of their spending.
But teacher and dorm parent Christopher Westcott sees the business as a much more wholesome venture.
“I don’t think they are even making money yet,” Mr. Westcott said. “Their intent is not to make a profit, they just want more snacks available as a service to their fellow dormers.”Share