Local businesses hire in spring, often pay above minimum wage

Photo by Jenna Watson.

Kelli Fitzpatrick

The Ohio minimum wage rose from $7.40 to $7.70 Jan. 1, but employees are likely to make more in Kent. Local businesses often hire student employees, and most will be looking to hire more later in the spring. Here is a preview of what the area’s businesses, big and small, have to offer for student employment.

Dr. GreenBee, eco-friendly home, office and garden supply store

Staff: Six employees, including one Kent State student and three graduates

Starting Wage: $8

Extra perks: Involvement with community events

Maureen Drinkard, Dr. GreenBee co-owner, said she is looking for a sales person, cashier and marketing employee over the next six to eight months.

“We hire students over someone else, actually,” she said. “We like young people because it goes along with our company mission” of bringing environmental awareness to the area through young generations.

Drinkard’s brother, Nolan, works at Dr. GreenBee. The freshman exploratory major said he can help others stay environmentally conscious through his job.

“It gives me the means to remain informed on the green issues facing society,” Nolan said. “Because of that, I feel like I can serve an active role in trying to push people towards a greener lifestyle and help them get informed.”

Drinkard said she will be looking for charismatic students to hire in March.

“If you really get the green issues we’re facing, that’s the kind of people we want to hire,” Drinkard said. “Having charisma will get you through the day more than having experience.”

Wild Earth Outfitters, outdoor sport retailer

Staff: Six employees, four are Kent State students

Starting wage: $8

Extra perks: Vendor-supported employee purchase program

Tim Nightengale, Wild Earth Outfitters owner, said he works with his student employee’s schedules by offering varying shifts of four to eight hours. He said he will likely hire more staff for the summer.

Aleksey Lavrinenko, senior psychology major, has worked with Wild Earth Outfitters for three months, and will continue through the summer.

“I love it. It’s exciting to work with a bunch of gear I’m interested in,” Lavrinenko said.

Wild Earth sells backpack, hiking and tent gear with which “you can go on a weeklong adventure and get lost somewhere,” Lavrinenko said. He enjoys “getting other people stoked [about the stuff here].”

Tavern at Twin Lakes Inc., restaurant and bar

Staff: Six to 10 employees, including three Kent State students

Starting wage: “Above minimum wage”

Extra perks: Discount on food and drinks

Richard Gressard, Tavern at Twin Lakes Inc. owner, said he hires more staff in warmer weather to cover the increase in customers coming to dine on the outdoor patio.

“I always look for Kent State students,” Gressard said. “We’re a Kent family here… I wouldn’t be here without Kent State.”

Nikki Smith, senior art history major, has worked at the Tavern for 18 months. She plans to work there until she graduates in fall 2012.

“I really like the location and the people I’ve met here,” said Smith, who has worked at four restaurants before. “It’s one of the best serving jobs I’ve had.”

Gressard said students can find flexibility working at a restaurant.

“It’s a great business to work in, if you go to school,” he said. “You can pick your hours and make good money for tips.”

The Tavern will accept applications in March, Gressard said. Employees must be 21 or older.

Ray’s Place, restaurant and bar

Staff: 45 to 50 employees, half are Kent State students

Starting wage: Tipped employees (servers, bartenders) are paid half of minimum wage; non-tipped (kitchen, door workers), $7.70

Extra perks: “We bend over backwards to accommodate schedules”

General manager Tom Creech said Ray’s Place always accepts applications and hires as needed, which can be frequent as student employees graduate.

“We have a fair amount of turnover because we have a lot of students eventually moving on,” Creech said. “Sometimes they stick around for a month or two, for a summer or not at all after graduation. It’s a varied environment.”

Bartenders, servers and door employees who check IDs must be 21 or older, but kitchen workers can be younger, Creech said.

“Servers and bartenders are interchangeable,” Creech said. “Everyone is trained the same; everybody has to be capable.”

Kelly White, former Kent State student, has been a server at Ray’s for more than a year. She started at Ray’s shortly after deciding to leave school to focus on saving money.

“We have a lot of really awesome regulars; we’re like a big family,” White said. “It’s a friendly environment all the way, and the money’s good.”

Campus Camera, camera store

Staff: Six employees, including one Kent State student

Starting wage: $7.70

Extra perks: Performance-based raises, manufacturer incentives (commission paid by manufacturer)

Campus Camera, a family-owned camera supply store, puts a student’s schooling first, said general manager Daniel Demshar.

“They didn’t come here to work, they came here to go to school,” Demshar said. Demshar said having three full-time sales associates allow for flexibility with student scheduling. Lengths of shifts are based on employee availability.

Dan Enders, senior industrial technology major, runs a photography education program with the store.

“I get to talk about the things that make photography a passion of each individual who’s seeking to learn,” Enders said. He leads workshops, seminars and photography “boot camps.”

Enders said his job is “the coolest in the world, and one of the most flexible jobs I’ve ever had.” He plans to work at Campus Camera until he graduates.

“Our main focus is compassion to benefit people in our program,” Enders said. “I’m tickled to death that I can do that.”

Mike’s Place, restaurant and bar

Staff: 60, including 15 to 20 Kent State students

Starting wage: $8.20

Extra perks: Regular raises, discounts on food

Mike Kostensky, owner of Mike’s Place, said he is “accepting applications all the time,” and he looks for employees with flexible hours, dependability and the ability to work under pressure.

“They need to be on the edge,” Kostensky said. “We’re definitely not your normal restaurant,” he said about the décor, which includes a tiki hut, mannequins and a life-sized bus.

Mike’s Place has a morning and afternoon shift, with different shifts within those to accommodate student employees’ schedules.

“We try to work (with schedules) the best we can,” Kostensky said. “It gets hard sometimes, (but) on the weekends, we need a lot of them.”

Kostensky said Mike’s Place has always paid more than minimum wage.

“We’ve paid so far over minimum wage for so long, (the increase) didn’t affect us,” he said. “That’s just how we are.”

Kostensky’s daughter, Hope, has worked at Mike’s Place since she was 15-and-a-half years old. Hope, a senior psychology major, said she enjoys the unique atmosphere.

“There’s such a variety of people who work here,” she said. “The customers are so different than any other place.”

Contact Kelli Fitzpatrick at [email protected].