Business is booming around town

It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and business is booming at the Arctic Squirrel. Moments after the doors open, more than a dozen patrons from kids to senior citizens file into the small shop for homemade waffle cones and sundaes in flavors like Rough Rider Raspberry and Magic Squirrel.

Michelle Hartman, co-owner of the Arctic Squirrel, said sales have been increasing every week during the summer.

“Ice cream appeals to all ages,” Hartman said. “We have a really solid regular customer base and we’ve only been here eight months.”

It may not be surprising that an ice cream shop would do better business in the summer, but Hartman’s store isn’t the only Acorn Alley business that has seen increased sales. In fact, most businesses in the new development are faring well while most Kent State students are away for the summer.

Off the Wagon, the eclectic toy store featuring favorites such as Ugly Dolls, ninja bandages and plush giant microbes, has also done good business the past two months.

“The students aren’t here, but the kids come in with their parents,” said Annie Carver, who has worked for Off the Wagon since it opened last summer.

Sales are up at the Main Street Snack Shoppe, too.

“It’s actually picked up some because of the nice weather,” said Angie Percello, employee since September 2009. “I think word’s getting out that the Alley exists now.”

Next door at the Pita Pit, sales have slowed significantly. But owner Jane Walther said the franchise sandwich shop is still doing good business. On a good day, the shop makes up to $2,000, but lately sales have been about half that.

“We’ve cut hours back at night, but lunches are still busy,” said Walther.

During the school year, the store was open until 3:00 a.m., but it currently closes at 1:00 a.m. for deliveries.

“We’re looking forward to being busy for Heritage Fest,” Walther said.

She said she anticipates business will pick up again in late August when students return.

Paul Geldhof, owner of the Dancing Beta sushi restaurant, said business has “slowed significantly” since opening in May, but he expects better sales when class is back in session.

Back at the Arctic Squirrel, patrons enjoy their cool, creamy treats. One ice cream lover said,“[I come here] every chance I get. We like to support local businesses.”

However; lack of business in Acorn Alley can hardly be attributed to tough competition between the venues. “We work really well as a team down here,” says Snack Shoppe manager Heather Weber, “We do cross promotion for one another.” This only lends to the warm, comfortable atmosphere of Acorn Alley.

The unique variety of shops downtown offers citizens of Kent shopping selections that one can’t find in the more mainstream urban locations.

The same mentality applies to other downtown businesses as well. Even among competing tattoo parlors there is little sense of rivalry. Ryan Fishley of Defiance Tattoos says, “We’re not really in competition with anybody else…We do good business.”

The book shops sit together well too. Ted Bliss of Rodney-The Complete Book Store doens’t seem to worry. He always greets his customers with a warm smile on his face. Jason Merlene of Last Exit Books also adds; “Don’t be stupid, buy books!” There is more than enough distinction between the two shops for them to happily coexist so close to each other.

Hartman attributes the success of local businesses to the Downtown Kent Revitalization Project. She says there’s more to see downtown, and people are surprised by it.

“News of revitalization sends people downtown. They want to see what’s new,” Hartman said. “It’s an exciting time.”

Contact news correspondent Heather Jaborsky at [email protected].