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10 (More) Things Downtown State College Needs

Everyone loves downtown State College, but we all know it isn’t perfect. For all the wonderful amenities and local restaurants, a greater variety of choice is always appreciated. Last fall, our staff painstakingly compiled a list of 10 stores and restaurants downtown State College desperately needs. We’ve decided to go back for round two, but expand the scope to include other retail and food spots that would continue to prove we have the best college town in America.

(Note: We know that mom and pop-type establishments like Irving’s are essential to the ambiance of downtown. We support those above all, but of course, if they don’t yet exist anywhere we can’t name them on a list.)


Almost all of the furniture in my last three apartments is from IKEA, but I had to transport it all a few hours to get it here. For cheap, useful furniture with a modern look, IKEA is ideal. College students and recent graduates always have pads furnished to the gills with affordable Swedish furniture, and it’s glorious. Giving access to an IKEA right downtown would result in both an incredible warehouse clear out on move-in day that would make a Supply Chain student blush, and an awesome resource for anyone looking to upgrade their spot and take it from Trap House to Goathouse.

2. Buffalo Wild Wings

I’ve always wondered how, of all the places, State College doesn’t have a Buffalo Wild Wings. Pennsylvania’s Draconian alcohol laws may have something to do with it, as BDubs is nothing without beer, but if you could get the permit, it would be a gold mine. A town and university obsessed with football (and sports in general), is passionate about chicken wings, an loves to party? That’s basically the blueprint for a successful spot. Imagine what it would look like on an NFL Sunday? Sure, it may be the physical embodiment of mediocrity in all other facets besides beer and wings, but those are good wings Walter.

3. J. Crew/Brooks Brothers

This is a personal plea to these fine men’s retailers from myself and fellow staff writer Ted Hozza: Please come to State College. The utter lack of decent men’s clothing stores downtown is almost enough to turn one into some dipshit men’s rights activist. But really, J. Crew provides good-looking clothing that range from casual to upscale at not-too-bad prices. Brooks Brothers is the higher end option, but their dress shirts can not be beat. Even an outlet-style store would be welcomed like no other. I guarantee with the litany of business students, fraternity men, and genuinely preppy individuals around this campus, there is money to be made in this market. Please, I’m tired of exclusively buying my clothes online.

4. Whole Foods

There is no supermarket downtown, and McLanahan’s and their Downtown Market sister store are certainly convenient, but not exactly the most adventurous in their selections. Specifically, they lack organic produce and a wider selection of healthy food leaving many wanting more. Whole Foods encompasses everything great about Wegmans, Trader Joe’s, and other similar stores, and would be a perfect complement as a downtown location. The beer selection may have to be housed separately like Wegmans, but would also be a welcome addition. Enabling people to eat better from a location that does not require a drive would certainly generate interest.

5. Uber/Lyft

So Uber isn’t a store, but we desperately want and need it. While they are looking to expand to State College, the service is not here just yet. Being able to have a car pick you up with a few clicks and no cash exchange is incredibly useful, especially late at night. It would create jobs as well, as drivers for UberX and Uber Black Car would be needed for sure. Anybody who has ever dealt with the cab companies in Happy Valley can tell you  that Uber would thrive here, as there is hardly even a competent service available for rides. There are multiple Penn Staters who currently work for Uber, and supporting your own is always a good cause. Let the ride sharing revolution begin, and for competition’s sake, let’s get Lyft in here too. While it does not have the user base yet, it is a similarly excellent service, and also has Penn Staters working for them.

6. Victoria’s Secret

When I brought up this idea, I got bombarded with this answer. The women of State College have spoken, and they want the lingerie and women’s clothing giant downtown. It’s incredibly surprising that one does not already exist downtown. While usually a mall staple, Victoria’s Secret would be far more useful in a standalone location downtown, and would be frequented by the women of State College, as well as men awkwardly trying to buy gifts for their girlfriends. A campus full of young, attractive people seems like a good fit.

7. Dueling Pianos Bar

Live music at bars is a Penn State tradition, and the Phyrst consistently sports some of the best cover bands out there, but there is very little love for Billy Joel’s instrument of choice, and that should change. For the uninitiated, dueling pianos bars are the best. Two guys have pianos on stage facing each other, with a tip jar on each. You give money to the one you like better in a massive tip jar, and can request songs for tip sizes and such. They’ll play with and against each other, and everyone gets drunk and sings along and it’s an awesome time. It takes the cover band experience to a new, interactive level, and if you have not heard The Real Slim Shady done on a grand piano, you haven’t lived.

 8. Chinese Buffet

The ultimate palace of glutton, Chinese buffets litter my homeland of Long Island, but are sadly absent in State College. Sure, we have excellent Chinese in Big Bowl and Little Szechuan, but where is the all-you-can-eat General Tso’s for $11.99? While there are options off Vairo, it’s a long haul for what is probably only okay food. Put it downtown, and it becomes a staple. Any type of restaurant where you can get six plates of kung pao chicken and a bowl of soft serve on the side needs to be placed prominently in a college town, because that unhealthy, bang-for-your-buck option is what everyone looks for.

9. Casino

Try and tell yourself having a casino downtown wouldn’t be some of the coolest shit ever. You can’t because you’d be lying. Sure, it probably promotes two highly-addictive vices (alcohol and gambling), but if you can have some modicum of self-control, casinos are a great time. Shows, music, drinks, cards, and slots would draw in great money AND create jobs that could easily be filled by college students. While not a resort location, it would create an extra draw to State College tourism and, to be honest, I’ve always wanted to see Wayne Newton live.

10. In-N-Out Burger

The ultimate pipe dream, but this writer would cry legitimate tears of joy if I saw that famous yellow arrow and simple menu pop up, anywhere within driving distance. Downtown would be legendary. We would be the first city on the eastern seaboard with an In-N-Out, and bringing burgers to State College that would easily win our Onward Debate for the best one in town. The secret menu, animal style, and double double could all become parts of the Penn State lexicon, and we would collectively gain a billion pounds as a university. I’m not exaggerating when I say it would be Penn State’s finest moment. Future senior class gift committees should look into franchising instead of rocks with stuff written on them. Do it for the animal fries.

Have an idea for a store, service, or thing we need downtown? Let us know in the comments.

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About the Author

Noel Purcell

Noel Purcell is Onward State's Features Editor. He's a senior Supply Chain major, but is going to law school at some point in the future and masquerades as a writer for now. He continues to disappoint his ancestors by being a complete Irish stereotype. His email is [email protected] because there were no other Noels before him. His ex-wife got the good half of his bio in the divorce settlement.


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