The snack machine that moved down the street


The footrace begins. The door is wide open, preparing for the rush. It is quiet now, but it won’t be for long. It’s 11:31 a.m. and lunch break at Lincoln has just begun.

The first few students who arrive are greeted with relaxed smiles. As more and more kids enter, the staffs’ smiles turn into straight faces. Customers can’t open the doors because of the dozens of kids stacked in the aisles.

As the numbers inside peak, the only way students can get out of the store is to crawl under the legs of their peers. Staff frantically work to get kids out of the store to make room for others.

By noon when the last students file out, the shelves are virtually swept clean.

Westside Market, a small family-owned business at 919 S.W. 14th Ave., is the center of a tsunami of Lincoln students for 33 minutes every school day.

The proximity – just 528 feet away – the low price and kind service make it a go-to choice. Owner Jee Young Kim, who declined to comment for this article, has stopped the hunger pangs of thousands of Lincoln students.

“It’s really close to campus and, I went to Eastside (the convenience store on Southwest Jefferson Street) once, it was a way longer walk and the people weren’t as friendly,” says Sophia Zhang, a freshman.

When the federal Healthy Schools Act of 2007 banned unhealthy food and beverages in schools, the treats once found in the school snack machines just moved down the block.

Westside has acted as Lincoln’s snack machine ever since it opened about 10 years ago. Most of the customers are regulars, which explains why staff is so friendly.

“I go to Westside almost everyday,” freshman Selena Yao says. “I usually get a Cup of Noodles, a bag of chips and some candy. It usually costs about $5-10.”

Westside’s prices are practically a bargain: a large muffin costs $1.25, a coffee shop is often double that; a bag of chips is $1.50 at Westside, but cost triple that at 7-Eleven.

Westside has a selection of foods from chocolate chip muffins and Pop-tarts to Cup of Noodles and cereal. Beverages range from water to Arizona Tea and Snapple.

“My favorite item is definitely the chocolate chip muffin,” freshman Eliza Grant says. “It is also the favorite of almost all my friends.

“Most of the time the muffins are there, but, most recently, they have been gone. I am forced to get a pumpkin or a blueberry muffin. Granted, they are both good but, not the same. After that, my lunchtime is basically ruined.”

Her frantic search isn’t helped by the size of the store either.The tight space, with every aisle full of hungry students can be intimidating.

But it doesn’t seem to stop anyone. Whether it’s to stock up with snacks, or for lunch, students push through the rush.