The Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce works with nearly 700 businesses across 10 square miles that make up Oxford. While Oxford has many staples of Southern life, such as fried food joints and clothing boutiques, some residents say more businesses are needed.
Amanda Habrack, 18, is dissatisfied with the current selection of food places in Oxford. “I’m allergic to dairy,” Habrack said. “I would like to see more allergy-friendly food places. I don’t like having to avoid eating out because of my allergies.”
The inclusion of more vegetarian or vegan restaurants could fulfill Habrack’s needs. The Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce website shows there are about 150 restaurants in Oxford, but only three report that they offer vegan options.
Similarly, another complaint is the lack of ethnic food. Dr. Joan Hall is a University of Mississippi professor who has lived in Oxford for more than 30. Hall has witnessed the growth and changes Oxford has undergone within the last three decades.
“We seem to be oversaturated with food places, especially for our small size,” she said. “I have to wonder, do we have many affordable healthy food options? We seem to lack in ethnic food as well, like Indian or Middle Eastern food,” Hall said.
Some residents also feel they don’t have many options when it comes to grocery shopping. Viktoria Lassmann, 27, is a vegetarian who would like to see an upscale grocery store come to Oxford, such as Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Upscale grocery stores often offer better quality and a wider selection of food than big box stores, such as Walmart.
Lassmann said her dietary needs as a vegetarian would be better met with an upscale grocery. “I think there’s a market for it here,” she said. “This place can definitely do better than Walmart and Kroger for groceries.”
Emma Brooks, 18, said Oxford has enough food businesses, but their locations are inconvenient.
“I don’t think we’re lacking in anything,” she said. “It’s more how things are set up. In some places, it’s too concentrated in one area. The Square is difficult to park in sometimes, and traffic in town can make what should be a quick fast food run take over 45 minutes.”
Some residents wish for more businesses that aren’t restaurants or bars. “We have plenty of food places to go, but there aren’t many places to actually hang out here,” Brooks said. “It would be nice to have an actual mall here with a food court, or even a comic book store.”
Lassmann wants more hangout spots outside of the Square, especially for older residents and students. “If you want to be social and go out, you have to go to the Square,” she said. “Other places are not conducive to socializing. Being that I’m 27 years old, I don’t feel like I fit in with the young crowd here sometimes. Is there a place for older people to hang out? No,” Lassmann said.
Such hangout spaces could include more parks and gardens, museums, or niche stores.
Hall said she misses the time two and three decades ago when she could still see “green spaces” in Oxford before the city grew. She believes the city’s saturation of student housing and condominiums has taken away all the green space Oxford once had and replaced it with concrete and cars.
Although the city of Oxford has 700 businesses across 10 square miles, some residents say more diversity in businesses is welcome.