Bowdoin's OneCard Goes Downtown

Story posted March 22, 2012

Bowdoin College has recently expanded the OneCard territory beyond campus, allowing students to use their cards to make purchases at local restaurants and shops.

The new program launched the first weekend in February, and current sales data indicate that students have been taking advantage of their new spending flexibility, according to Chris Bird '07, the college’s OneCard coordinator. So far seven businesses have signed up, with more indicating interest, and close to 300 sales have been recorded in total.

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Participating venues include Aki Japanese Cuisine, Big Top Deli, Domino’s Pizza, Flipside Pizza, Henry and Marty, and Wild Oats Bakery & Cafe. Joshua’s Restaurant & Tavern will begin accepting OneCards after spring break, according to Bird, who added that he’s hopeful more merchants will continue to join the program.

Tony Sachs, owner of Big Top Deli, said he signed up to make the downtown more hospitable to students. “Anything a local retailer or business owner can do to welcome Bowdoin students downtown is good for everyone downtown,” he said. Sachs also mentioned that during the recession he saw fewer students in his restaurant, and speculates that the OneCard could help encourage students on a limited budget to spend more of their discretionary funds in the community.

"If this program encourages students to explore beyond the edges of campus and support the Brunswick community, I think it’s a win for everyone."

Adam Marquis, a pizza chef at Flipside Pizza, said his restaurant signed up a couple of weeks ago as a way to support the local community and college. But he added that he hasn’t seen many OneCard sales yet, which could be a matter of timing since students just finished up midterms and now are on spring break.

Or it might be a matter of getting the word out. Sachs said he's continuing to let students know that he accepts OneCards because many are still unaware. And while he says OneCard sales are fairly strong at Big Top, he noted that they did drop off around exam time.

Bird says Bowdoin launched the off-campus OneCard program with the hope it would encourage more students to venture downtown. “Speaking as a former student who now lives in Brunswick, there are lots of great places here, several of which I never visited as a student,” Bird said. “If this program encourages students to explore beyond the edges of campus and support the Brunswick community, I think it’s a win for everyone.”

Previously OneCards were limited to campus, where students use them to enter college buildings, as well as to make payments at the college store, bookstore, café and pub. OneCards also allow students to pay for laundry, printing and copying fees, vending machine snacks, and tickets for events. Funds can be deposited into OneCard accounts online, with cash or by check.

To broaden the OneCard's reach, Bowdoin partnered with The CBORD Group, Inc., the company that provides the software and hardware for the college’s current OneCard program. Participating merchants receive a card swiper and transaction processor from CBORD, and pay CBORD a monthly fee plus small commission on each sale, according to Bird. All participating businesses must agree to not accept OneCard payments for alcohol or tobacco.

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