Local businesses felt the pinch when we were gone for five weeks

Kristine Philips

Holiday rush helped some offset losses

Local businesses tend to slow down when students leave for winter break. CAITLIN SIRSE | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

Local business felt the impact as students departed from Kent over the winter break.

According to statistics from the office of Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness, the population of Kent State University’s main campus is just over 22,500 students. With the total population of the city of Kent being nearly 28,000 full-time residents, according to the 1990 census, businesses depend on college students for a significant portion of their business.

“Our business is about 50-50,” said Melissa, general manager of Hungry Howie’s Pizza on Main Street. She declined to provide her last name because she noted she could not speak for the entire company. “There’s a decrease when students aren’t here.”

While she said business decreased about 10 to 15 percent over winter break, the general trend of business varies from week to week under the current economic conditions.

The busy nature of the winter holidays also helped supplement their business as well.

“Holidays are busy,” Melissa said. “Full-time residents of Kent order more during that time, so that helps absorb some of the decrease from the students leaving.”

One manager, who also declined to provide his name because he did not speak for the company, from Starbucks on the corner of Lincoln and Main streets, said the economy in general has been causing problems for their business, regardless of students’ presence.

“Our numbers are down,” he said. “Everybody’s down. The kids being out of school hurts a little bit. It’s all about the town here. Kent is a poor town. It hurts this store a little more than other areas like Brecksville that have more money.”

Both managers note the nature of their businesses appeal to college students. However, some other businesses cater to both students and full-time residents alike. Mike Melin, bar manager for Ray’s Place on Water Street, said there wasn’t much of a difference in the amount of business from customers during the holidays.

“We have so many local people from the area that we stayed very busy throughout the holiday season,” Melin said .

While his business stayed steady through the holidays, Melin said there was a significant change after the holidays were over.

“Once we got beyond New Year’s, Kent becomes a ghost town,” Melin said. “It wasn’t until the week after that we felt the absence in our business.”

Some businesses, however, did not feel the absence.

Assistant Manager Brian Tiebman at Family Video said their business actually stayed consistent if not improved. But he blamed the troubled economy, the bad weather over break and the recent closing of the Blockbuster in Kent for their increase in business this year.

“It usually slows down a bit when the kids are gone,” Tiebman said. “But we’re doing weekend numbers on weekdays. If anything, the economy helps us. People don’t have money to go to the movies, but they can rent a video for less.”

All managers note though that they are glad to have the university in session once more because of the change it brings to the atmosphere of Kent, along with the extra money college students bring with them from the holidays.

“It often surprises me how much money kids come back with,” the Starbucks manager said. “I miss them, and I miss their money. I love when the kids are here. It makes for a better atmosphere.”

Contact general assignment reporter Kristine Philips at [email protected].