Similar to Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California Thayer Street hosts independent shops and restaurants that serve as a communal center for students and local hipsters. While Harvard Square has long been controlled by chain restaurants and stores, many businesses on Thayer remain independent, such as Avon Cinema, with certain notable exceptions such as Johnny Rockets, Starbucks, Au Bon Pain, and Urban Outfitters. Up until late 2004, The Gap also had a location on Thayer Street, though it has subsequently closed. The east-coast sportswear retailer City Sports has since taken over its spot. Currently, a Chipotle Mexican Grill is planned for the corner of Thayer St. Euclid Ave.
Over the last several years, there has been a general increase in the proportion of Thayer St. businesses that serve food. Neighborhood residents and some other community members argue that landlords should try to lease space to retail stores instead of new restaurants. This preference is due in part to the limited parking currently available on College Hill. City zoning regulations require far fewer off-street parking spaces for retail businesses than for restaurants. Neighbors also complain of a noise late at night and the College Hill Neighborhood Association, an organization representing College Hill residents, generally fights against applications for liquor licenses on Thayer St.