Chain reaction: the alteration of Durham businesses and closure of Brooklyn Pizza Slice

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Screaming, crying, throwing up,’ was the text that I received from my older brother, a 2022 Durham graduate, when he saw the news of the closure of Brooklyn Pizza Slice. When I joined Durham, some of the brotherly advice that he stressed the most was quite how much I needed to visit this Durham institution, allegedly some of the best pizza I could eat, an absolute favourite for him and his friends. I held this advice close to my heart and it turned out to be very valuable. In first year whenever I didn’t fancy another depressing curry from college, and this year on a hungover wander back from lectures, it did indeed feel like the best pizza you could eat, and it became adored by my friends and me as well. When I broke the news of its closure to our group chat it was taken like the loss of an old friend, we were truly gutted.

Businesses like Brooklyn Pizza Slice are the heart and soul of the Durham North Road and become an integral part of the university experience. As a student body these places are our daily points of reference, we use them to meet up with friends, cheer us up on yet another rainy Durham day, or they allow us to experience the joy of running into a familiar face unexpectedly and catching up.

Durham’s charm is its size, and although North Road may be limited, a lot of happiness can be found

On its surface it is indisputable that North Road is not the most spectacular in terms of range of services compared to many other university cities, paling in comparison to the likes of Newcastle and its endless range of restaurants and shops. However, Durham’s size is largely not seen as a hinderance to those who live here, it just means that we grow even fonder of the smattering of quaint coffee shops and boutiques that sell what appears to be both nothing of use and everything, that we do have access to. For me Durham’s charm is its size, and although the high street may be limited, a lot of happiness can be found in ambling around town and seeing your favourite pub or the tiny restaurant that you celebrated your last birthday in realising that you have formed a positive association with so many of the places around you that it becomes hard not to love living here.

Unfortunately, this sappy love letter to Durham and the bizarre and brilliant contents of its North Road may not be one that can be written by many more years of students. From what I can see it appears that Brooklyn Pizza Slice has been replaced by a staircase leading up to some kind of office. Somehow, I doubt that generations of Durham students will grow to love this particular staircase, raving about its quality to friends far and wide.

This depressing depersonalisation of North Road is sadly not an isolated incident. Across the short time I have been in Durham I have seen more and more chain businesses creeping in, making it hard for the beloved, independent establishments to stay afloat.

On one hand the addition of chains to other parts of Durham such as High Street can be a positive thing; when people see food that they love from home coming to Durham, such as the relatively new Tortilla and recently opened Rudy’s, a lot of buzz can be generated. However, for me, it just isn’t the same if all the places that you can eat at and shop at in Durham are the same places that you can find in many other cities across the country.

This depressing depersonalisation of North Road is sadly not an isolated incident

A place being Durham specific is key to the creation of a sense of a ‘home away from home,’ as you grow to be exited to come back to town for that specific coffee, cake, or pizza slice. Having seen how many people have been upset by the loss of Brooklyn Pizza Slice, I hope that none of our other much-loved destinations are due to follow suit. Consider this a eulogy to the best pizza in Durham and a plea to not lose more of what we love in the coming years.

Image credit: Rhododendrites via Wikimedia Commons

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