service outside the Safeway, complete with songs, poetry readings, testimonials, and a recitation of the mourner’s kaddish. When the store ultimately closed, it represented not merely the end of an era, but also the loss of our ecosystem’s primary food source.
JASON PUTSCHÉ PHOTOGRAPHY
FROM WHERE I STAND Russel Shaw, Head of School
A look inside GDS on any given day reveals a multiplicity of identities. GDS is a community. A hub of activism. A workplace. A training ground. A learning institution. And an ecosystem. An ecosystem is “a large community of living organisms in a particular area...linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows.” Four years ago, our High School ecosystem experienced a disruption in its nutrient cycle when the Tenleytown Safeway closed. The Tenleytown Safeway had played an important role in the High School ecosystem since we opened our doors on Davenport Street in 1996. To put it into context, there has been a Safeway within walking distance of the High School since it started back in 1969, despite being in four different locations. While perhaps apocryphal, I was told more than once that GDS students, parents, and faculty represented a third of the Tenleytown store’s total revenue. The Safeway was tremendously convenient, whether for picking up cookies for a club meeting, a quick deli sandwich for lunch, or a pack of paper towels on the way home. The Safeway was the “cafeteria” for a school that didn’t have one. In 2014, when ownership of Corporate Safeway changed hands, the company’s new owners decided to close some of its underperforming stores, including the one on Davenport Street. This decision proved a great boon to GDS, as we were able to purchase the site and initiate our process of school unification. It also, however, represented a loss for the GDS community, and in 2015, our High School students held a touching memorial 2
What happens in an ecosystem when a food source disappears? Science tells us that the extinction of one species can endanger other life in the same ecosystem because of the interdependency of life forms in a food web. The true test of any life form in this circumstance is whether it is adaptable enough to evolve its habits, identifying a new food source and re-establishing the health of the ecosystem. Often this takes a period of adjustment, and so it was at GDS. I am pleased to report that since the Safeway closed its doors in 2016, the ecosystem has righted itself. Quietly, without much fanfare, a student-run school store appeared in the High School Internet Cafe. At first called “Tabata” (named, in true GDS fashion, after a type of high-intensity interval training developed by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and popularized at GDS by Physical Education department chair Taylor Brown), the store, opening in the 2017-18 school year, was minimalist at first, featuring a handful of different snack foods. While it had a few patrons, it struggled to find its niche in an ecosystem where it was competing with vending machines, outside vendors, an abundance of Tenleytown restaurants and, most importantly, lunch packed at home. The proprietors of Tabata (led by founder Jonah DocterLoeb '20) determined that the store needed to evolve to survive. Selection was expanded dramatically, with food and drink orders driven by student requests and filled by weekly deliveries from Costco. A volunteer team of 20 store clerks was developed, each of whom receives discounts on their own purchases in exchange for hours overseeing the store. The name “Tabata” was ultimately deemed too esoteric, and the store was rebranded first as Story McStoreface (after the British autonomous
A poster from the Safeway memorial held by GDS HS students.