As you drive into downtown Squamish, you pass by the unofficial gateway to town — those two golden arches. For many who travel the Sea to Sky Highway, it may be their only stop in Squamish, a deep-fried pick-up on the way to other destinations. This franchise location is also known for a more historic feat: Becoming the first in the chain’s North American burger joints to unionize (even if only for less than a year).
Like it or not, fast food has long been a part of Squamish’s culinary scene. It seems many in town like that. When a certain ice cream shop brought year-round blizzards to Squamish, the story announcing that it might arrive was The Squamish Chief’s most-read story that week. The same thing happened when a Mexican-mix restaurant (which, yes, is a franchise) shuttered its doors at its iconic pit stop along the highway, and transformed into a food truck operation.
Of course, the question on everyone’s lips lately is when is the new kid on the block will let the noodles out of the box. The lights are on, but is anyone home?
So what is it about franchised food that makes Squamish rush in when a new chain opens in town?
According to the International Franchise Association, small markets like Squamish are often underserved. The have-nots of small town, “rural” life are many. While we frequent our beloved hometown, locally-owned venues too, (just think of the brunch spot that has closed and reopened only to temporarily close again) it can be comforting to order the usual and sink your teeth into the same well-loved grub you had when you were a kid.
The low costs associated with these establishments also make them popular hang-outs. When I lived in northern B.C., in a place where the only traffic was at the town’s only drive-thru, the local Canadian donut shop was the place to be. You’d often run into the mayor from the neighbouring community there (since they didn’t have their own hockey-star-founded café). I still remember when my Nova Scotian hometown first got — and then lost— that famous green straw, pumpkin spice latte serving café.
It was a big deal on both occasions, giving us a chance to try all those frou-frou drinks we saw in everyone else’s cups. Then, it was like being told we weren’t cool enough to sit at the table. Back to drip coffee, it was.
Recently, McDonald’s even started making scented candles. While I wonder who exactly would buy them, I bet you already know what they smell like. Some things, like the lingering scent of salt and grease, never change.