Preface: Maple View is an ice cream parlor located in rural Hillsborough. It is a locally owned business which I was recently exposed to for the first-time, last month, and I loved the beauty of the surrounding environment. I have yet to try the ice cream, but for me the view alone makes it worth the drive, and I was curious if this was a large motivation for other customers. This drove me to do research through observation and interviews so I could ultimately answer the question: what is the motivation for people to visit Maple View and how has this changed during COVID-19?
Maple View was first founded as a dairy farm in 1963. It was started by a fifth-generation farmer and in 2001 he saw the opportunity to use his dairy to start a local ice cream parlor (Maple View Farm). He placed the parlor right in the center of his farm resulting in a beautiful view surrounded by cow pastures. This is a large part of the uniqueness of Maple View and it has benefits that may or may not be intentional. According to David Pearson and Tony Craig, (2014) “Proximity to greenspace has been associated with lower levels of stress” (p. 1). Time outdoors has positive mental health effects and this definitely applies to Maple View, specifically during these times.
Currently, COVID-19 is causing people to spend significantly more time indoors. Recently, a study was performed about people’s use of time during the pandemic and the “examination of how participants allocated their time showed that they spent the majority of their day at home (73.5%)” (Lades, Laffan, Daly, Delaney, 2020, p.4). But, it also showed that people want to spend more time outdoors, since it helps relieve stress, and this can be made possible by going to Maple View. For this reason, it is a specific point I want to analyze during my time at Maple View in order to better understand the motivation behind people going to the ice cream parlor.
Observational Data and Analysis
In order to find answers to my research question, I went to Maple View on two occasions to see how people interacted with the location. When I first arrived, I was met with a beautiful view of the sunset, right over the tree line. As I looked around, I saw small clusters of friends and families sitting on a grass hill, and a long line of people waiting for ice cream. As I observed, I noticed no one was there alone. Everyone was with at least one friend, their family, or a group of people, and roughly half the people were eating ice cream. Due to this fact, one thing was clear; Maple View is acting as, not only a place to get food, but a hub for socialization, and this has not changed even during the midst of a pandemic. But, although this was the case, there was another trend I noticed. Different groups and families were not interacting with each other. This made me realize a significant impact the COVID pandemic has had on the function Maple View serves in the community. Although it is still a social hub, there is no social interaction between strangers, like there used to be.
As I focused back into the environment around me, I noticed the amount of people just watching the sunset. I honed into the atmosphere and instantly felt at peace. Being surrounded by trees and pastures, combined with the crisp air and beautiful sunset, made me feel happy. This caused me to look around and see how many other people were just enjoying the environment. I then realized another motivation for people to come to Maple View: the atmosphere. Maple View is unlike any other ice cream parlor because it offers such a unique view, as well as beautiful scenery.
My next observation was very similar to my first. I decided to go one hour before sunset in hopes a different dynamic would be present. I was slightly correct because I did notice a larger percent of people eating ice cream and fewer people just sitting and enjoying the view. I then decided the only way I could feel comfortable with the conclusions I had drawn was to interview customers. There was one interview with a mom that stood out. The woman spoke about how Maple View allows her family to spend time outdoors while eating dessert. She felt like this was a win-win for everyone because her kids got ice cream, her dog could run around, and she could be outside. She said she was working from home and that was stressing her out. By being outside she felt more relaxed and less worried about COVID because they could socially distance from others. After a few more interviews, I felt I had solidified my conclusions just in time to enjoy another sunset before heading home.
After completing my observations, it was clear that people were going to Maple View for three reasons: the delicious ice cream, a place to socialize, and the beautiful view and atmosphere. These motivations have not changed due to COVID, but have adapted, since now socializing is not occurring between strangers. Although these are the three main motivations I found while visiting Maple View, I did have bias due to the research I performed beforehand. I was already confident that the outside setting would be a large motivation for customers and this could have caused me to overlook other motivations. The larger implications of this study can be used to help local businesses struggling during the pandemic. Since it is clear people enjoy outside venues, for the atmosphere and safer environment in terms of COVID, other businesses can try to implement this idea by opening outside seating or using similar concepts, making their business more appealing. In the future, this research can be followed up by further studying Maple View, as well as other outside restaurants, in order to better understand the effects an outside atmosphere has on attracting customers.
Lades L. Laffan K. Daly M. Delaney L. (2020 June 23). Daily emotional well‐being during the COVID‐19 pandemic. The British Psychological Society. Retrieved from https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/pmc/articles/PMC7361840/?tool=pmcentrez&report=abstract
(n.d.). Maple View Farm. About the farm. Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://mapleviewfarm.com
Pearson D, Craig T. (2014, October 21). The great outdoors? Exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments. Frontiers in Psychology, 5(1178). Retrieved from https://www-frontiersin-org.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01178/full
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