Understaffed Hop Shop Plays Diminished Role in School Life

A list of items at the Hop Shop’s storefront in the Internet Cafe. Photo by Shaila Joshi.

In the spring of 2018, the Hop Shop first opened as a couple of tables in the back of the Internet Cafe, where students sold chips, cookies and bars. During the summer of 2019, a storefront was built with the help of Jonah Docter-Loeb ’20, then a rising senior and the Hop Shop’s founder.

Before COVID, students would often go to the Hop Shop to grab a quick snack, according to senior Liam Zeilinger, one of the store’s co–chief executive officers. “It was really a big part of GDS culture our freshman year,” Zeilinger said.

In a phone interview with the Bit, Docter-Loeb explained that the Hop Shop’s prominence before the pandemic was a result of the passion and time employees committed to it and special elements, like lengthy all-school emails each week, raffles and a now-expired website. “The success was leaning into the absurdity of it,” Docter-Loeb said. 

However, from the beginning of the pandemic to the start of the 2021-2022 school year, the Hop Shop was closed. Zeilinger said, “Getting it back up has been really hard.” The Hop Shop has rarely been open this year.

Senior Katie Young, the other Hop Shop co-CEO, said in an interview that the Hop Shop has faced “supply chain issues, lack of interest among the student body due to the pandemic and difficulties in the transition of power” from the leaders before COVID.

Last school year, the Hop Shop handled lunches for high school students that were made in the lower/middle school dining hall, Young said. “We ended up spending a lot of our time managing lunches and coordinating with the cafeteria as opposed to managing day-to-day operations at the Hop Shop.”

According to Young, between Nov. 7 and Dec. 7, there were 58 hourlong shifts with employees signed up to work, an average of fewer than four per school day, but during many of those hours, the Hop Shop remained closed. Young explained, “We’ve been struggling to get people to show up for shifts.”

When asked if he or other administrators have done anything to help bring the Hop Shop back to life, Quinn Killy, the assistant principal for school life, said that he has put students with ideas and questions about the Hop Shop in contact with the CEOs. He added, “My understanding is that their biggest issue is getting kids to work.”

According to Young, there are currently 21 students signed up to work, but only about 14 of them consistently sign up for shifts. Young attributed the lack of student involvement to underclassmen. “There was an entirely new generation of students who didn’t even know what the Hop Shop was, so garnering interest among the student body was incredibly difficult,” she said.

Docter-Loeb said that when the shop was understaffed before the pandemic, he would approach random people asking them if they wanted to work there.

Senior Jacob Getlan, who began working for the Hop Shop as a freshman, said he has not been very available this semester, but plans to work more next semester. He said that he has only seen one person at a time working there when it has been open this semester. Getlan noted that fewer students purchase from the Hop Shop when it is open, and he has heard students complain about increased prices.

Young said that she and Zeilinger work hard to keep prices down, which she says is part of their mission. They shop from multiple stores to look for the best deals. And, according to Young, the shop makes only minimal increases when they are necessary. For example, Oreos went from $1.25 to $1.50 since the pandemic.

“Honestly, I think most underclassmen, and especially freshmen, go to the vending machine a lot more than the Hop Shop,” sophomore Jessica Berger said.

Students earn service hours for working at the Hop Shop, and Getlan believes that the incentive of the hours is “a significant reason why people work there.” However, Zeilinger, Young and Getlan added that they have gained more than service hours from their work with the Hop Shop.  

“It’s beneficial to learn about how businesses operate,” Young said. “It’s a really fun group of people, and I really admire the commitment to social justice.”

All of the Hop Shop’s profits go to charities. Young said, “We generally try to donate to local charities.” In the past, the shop has donated to Capital Area Food Bank and We Are Family, two charities based in D.C.

Zeilinger declined to provide to the Bit data about the Hop Shop’s sales and revenue over the past four years.

While the Hop Shop continues to experience challenges as a result of the pandemic, both co-CEOs believe that it will be open more often in the coming weeks. 

Docter-Loeb said that he understands that running the store post-COVID would not be easy. “It was a school store that was put together over the course of a year. The fact that there are still things being sold, I consider a win,” he said. Docter-Loeb, currently on winter break from Carleton College, said that, especially after hearing about the state of the Hop Shop in the interview, he plans to visit GDS and bring candy necklaces to the store before GDS’ winter break begins.

He remembers one time during his senior year he decided to sell a whole box of Eggo waffles, and, as students cooked them in the microwave, a crowd surrounded the Hop Shop. 

Docter-Loeb hopes that the Hop Shop can continue to engage with the community and have a positive impact on GDS and, through donations, on D.C. He suggested that the Hop Shop introduce promotions and “have fun with it and spice things up.”