Boulder Daily Camera- October 9, 2009
Boulder teenagers who spent a September Saturday morning polling downtown businesses about their treatment of young shoppers and job applicants will present their results Saturday at a kick-off event for "Growing Up Boulder."
The new youth-engagement initiative -- backed by the city, Boulder Valley School District, and CU's Children, Youth and Environments Center -- aims to bring teen issues to local leaders.
Saturday's event will divide attendants into break-out sessions and allow young people to discuss a variety of issues, from skateboarding to nightlife to the results of their youth-friendly business survey.
According to preliminary results from the Sept. 12 survey, 10 owners or managers of the 13 Pearl Street businesses that teens entered were willing to be interviewed. All of those interviewed said they target youth, and six -- including Billabong and Farfel's Farm -- said they would employ high-schoolers. Only two, however -- Boulder Bookstore and Heidi's Brooklyn Deli -- actually have minors on staff right now.
"Overall, the owners and managers were friendly and respectful," according to the teenagers' preliminary results.
A few businesses, however, didn't have a warm welcome for the surveyors, the teens said.
For instance, Trident Booksellers threw the teens out "without any provocation," said Willem van Vliet, director of the CU youth center.
"An employee called a few days later to apologize but did not ask to speak to the youth themselves," van Vliet said. "When we conveyed the apology to the youth, they said it would not change their mind about boycotting the place."
Trident manager Mike Smith said the staff simply declined to participate because they were busy serving customers.
"They came in the middle of our morning rush and tried to talk to us," he said. "Do we hate teenagers? No, of course not."
Trident has "tons of customers who are teenagers," Smith said, adding that the employee who told them to leave was not rude.
"We told them we weren't going to do their survey in the middle of our morning rush and to please leave," he said.
Employees at Chipotle Mexican Grill and University Bicycles also refused to be interviewed.
University Bicycles general manager Lester Binegar said he "absolutely" would participate in the teen survey and he doesn't know why an employee declined to talk to the students who came in last month.
"Saturdays are sometimes bad because we're so busy," he said.
A Chipotle manager also said she doesn't know the circumstances that prompted a manager to turn the teens away.
Teen surveyors will continue to poll local businesses in the coming weeks, according to Debbie Flanders Cushing, of CU's youth center.
Eventually, Cushing said, the survey could manifest itself in "youth-friendly" stickers on business windows or doors, a youth guide to affable companies or a Web site targeting young people who are looking for work or a welcoming place to shop.