Downtown businesses fall back into place for start of semester

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Inside of Scribbles Coffee Co. in downtown Kent.

Dylan Reynolds

As Kent State students adjust to their class schedules this semester, area businesses are adapting and preparing for those students to become their new customers.

Brian Smith, manager of All Media Art Supply in Kent, estimated that 80 percent of the shop’s customers are students.

“The only reason we’re here is because students are in town,” he said. Smith said that during the summer, when most of All Media Art Supply’s customers are out of town, the shop prepares for the arrival of fall.

“We’ve (been around) long enough to know that the summertime is slow, so we’ve got other things we do in the summer that we don’t do in the school year,” he said. “We clean. We just do the things we don’t have time for.”

Jenn Richards, co-owner of Scribbles Coffee Co., agreed that the presence of students in town is good for business. She pointed to sales data from the beginning of this month, which shows a 36 percent increase in sales from the same period in August.

The shop recently hired three new employees to handle the extra customers.

During the summer, Scribbles takes advantage of the absence of students to update and renovate the building.

“It’s slower, which is kind of good for us, because that’s usually the time when we do a lot of our remodeling,” Richards said, noting that this year’s updates are ongoing.

Richards also said the demographic of customers changes during the school year.

“It’s usually a little bit louder and crazier in the summer because we do tend to get more families. When the students come back, it’s generally a little bit more studious,” she said.

Lori M. Wemhoff, the executive director of the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce, said many businesses are able to draw that different demographic during the summer because “Kent has become a destination.”

“You’re getting people coming here from Hudson and Stow and Ravenna and Aurora … to shop and eat,” Wemhoff said. “And that’s because I firmly believe the eclectic, unique opportunities that are here.

“And you’re finding, when you’re sitting in Panini’s on a Sunday night, that there’s people… coming from other neighborhoods, other towns.”

In 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the population of Kent at over 30,000, which almost mirrors the number of students at the university.

With half of the town being college students, Smith has come to love the unique position of managing a college-town business.

“It’s nice having the young people around. They keep us out of trouble,” he joked. “There’s no drawback.”

Richards said she enjoys her shop’s ability to develop a relationship with returning students.

“We get to know a lot of our customers,” she said, “and that to us is one of our favorite things, because we can build those relationships.”

For new students and those unfamiliar with the city, Wemhoff encouraged exploring the variety of businesses near campus.

“I just think the students, staff and faculty need to take advantage of everything that we have here downtown,” she said. “There’s a lot of great places to shop and eat, a lot of things to do.”

Dylan Reynolds is the business and neighborhoods reporter. Contact him at [email protected]