East magazine Fall 2008
Cover Story


What’s Greenville like as a college town?

By Steve Row


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/Users/stevetuttle/Desktop/Web art/BacktoCampusRemember your freshman year?
Here's how things have changed:

* The new majors:
   What's hot in the course catalogue

* 10 things every freshman needs to know today

* What's Greenville like as a college town?

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t he end of Move-In Day, hundreds of new students and their families likely will hop in the car in search of a meal, a mall or maybe a movie. What impressions will they form as they explore Greenville for perhaps the first time? What words of advice would help these new Pirates be welcomed and well fed? We put together this newcomers guide.

With a population now in excess of 70,000, Greenville offers at least one of nearly everything most college students—and their parents—expect to find in a college town. But most of the time, it’s only one.

The population center of the eastern third of North Carolina doesn’t have quite the same breadth of attractions or commercial development as Chapel Hill, Raleigh or Greensboro, but the coziness of the community enables new students and their families to more easily discover their new home. May we recommend:

Restaurants: A nice mix of dining choices is one of Greenville’s bright spots, The city has three beef/steak/chophouse-type restaurants (be sure parents pick up the tab; the prices at these places can raise an eyebrow or two), and a variety of ethnic restaurants. Try Finelli’s for Italian, Lemongrass for Thai, Chico’s for Mexican. Consistently tasty, well-prepared meals (lunch and dinner) and some to-die-for desserts can be found at The Daily Grind.

Other upscale eateries include Christinne’s at the Hilton and Chef’s 505, but if you want to impress a special friend, or the parents, you might try the Lakeview Room at Brook Valley Country Club, southeast of campus, which has a spectacular view, good food and more reasonable prices.

Despite its proximity to three coastal fishing centers (the Outer Banks, the Crystal Coast and Wilmington), the Greenville area still lacks an upscale restaurant specializing in local Atlantic seafood, although several restaurant menus boast fine fish and seafood entrees, and Calabash-style seafood restaurants are available.

Greenville has a Dunkin’ Donuts near the medical campus and a Krispy Kreme across the street from the Main Campus. The town has four Starbucks, a Panera Bread, a Bear Rock Café, and a McAllister’s Deli. A good variety of homemade sandwiches and baked goods can be found at Swiss Chalet not far from campus.

Shopping: Greenville has one enclosed mall, now known as Greenville Mall, anchored by JCPenney and Belk and also containing Aeropostale, Gap and American Eagle. It’s located just blocks south of the football stadium. The city also has many strip shopping centers plus one Wal-Mart, one Kmart, one Target, one Sears, one Staples, one Office Depot. A handful of upscale retailers can be found (Talbot’s for women and Jos. A. Bank, Steinbeck’s and Coffman’s for men). Several locally owned, trendy and boutique-y type shops and stores are not far from campus.

Greenville’s tiny downtown sits at the west end of campus and is dominated, as one might expect, by several bars, restaurants and a few retailers catering to students—University Book Exchange, Tipsy Teapot (a comfortable used book store as well as a nice café), the Bicycle Post, the Catalog Connection, for example—but local officials say downtown (promoted as “Uptown Greenville”) is still a work in progress.

Most students likely will head south to the strip malls along Greenville Boulevard to find more of what they want: Rugged Wearhouse, Old Navy, Great Outdoor Provision Co. and a range of additional clothing stores, such as Ross and T.J. Maxx at the lower end to Stein Mart at the middle range.

A new shopping center is under development on the southwest side of town, with an older Sears store to be linked to a newer Kohl’s by several stores and shops. This center could begin to fill out by the time incoming freshmen finish their sophomore year. Northeast of town, the North Campus Crossing apartment complex is proving to be a magnet for new stores and restaurants.

Entertainment: Blockbuster and Hollywood Video have local stores, as do Circuit City, Best Buy, F.Y.E. and East Coast Music + Video. The Barnes & Noble store has plenty of books but no music section. Greenville now has two multiscreen movie complexes, one operated by Carmike and one by Regal, but they show virtually the same movies. Neither complex devotes a screen to independent or foreign films. Various film series offered on campus partially fill that void.

Food: Students planning to cook a bit on their own will find several grocery stores nearby, but only one—a Harris Teeter—is within walking distance from campus. Further out are a Kroger, another Harris Teeter, and several Food Lions. The upscale Lowe’s Foods has one store, and by the beginning of 2009, the area’s first Fresh Market should be open on the southwest side of town (near Sears and Kohl’s). This store will provide some great bakery and pastry items, but many of the groceries likely will be priced out of reach of most students.

Culture: The culture of Greenville pretty much depends on the university. Nearly all the good live theater comes from the School of Theatre and Dance, which puts on comedies, tragedies, musicals, contemporary plays and Shakespeare each year and is generally recognized as one of the best theatrical programs in the region. Likewise, just about all the good, serious music comes from the School of Music (the Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival is a special treat each year); ECU also hosts a new music festival and the Billy Taylor Jazz Festival.

The broadest variety of world-class entertainment is the S. Rudolph Alexander Performing Arts Series, which brings renowned performers in music and dance from September through April. Garrison Keillor and some of his “Prairie Home Companion” acting company visited in April, for instance, and this year, the King’s Singers, Marvin Hamlisch and the North Carolina Symphony will be among the performers. See the full schedule of fall cultural events on page 13.

Off campus, the Folk Arts Society of Greenville stages traditional and contemporary music series and sponsors twice-monthly contra dances. Touring big-name pop concerts come to, well, Raleigh, 80 miles to the west.

The area plays host to several festivals and fun events, some right next to campus, some farther away. In early October is the Pitt County Fair, on the northeast side of town, and St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church sponsors a popular Lobster Fair in late October. Early December means the annual Christmas Parade, and a Festival of Trees takes place throughout December in the Greenville Convention Center.

Greenville has a small art museum with occasional special exhibits, an extreme sports park, as well as other more traditional recreational areas, and River Park North has hiking trails, five ponds, picnic areas and frontage along the Tar River. The park also contains the Walter L. Stasavich Science and Nature Center, which includes a 70-seat theater and a variety of exhibits, including a 10,000-gallon freshwater aquarium and turtle touch tank.