Kent shops do well despite lack of students

Sara Macho

Greta Siler, graduate nutrition and diet major, enjoys a healthy lunch from Susan’s yesterday afternoon. She is served by Jenima Hadjian, senior fashion merchandising major, and Milana Estrada, director of retail operations. “Summer business is just as b

Credit: Andrew popik

After most of the residence halls clear out and students go home for the summer months, commerce Kent doesn’t really suffer.

“This town doesn’t leave when the students leave,” said Mike Pfahl, general manager at Glory Days.

Many area businesses said sales don’t necessarily go down, but different crowds of people come in to keep business steady.

Tom Creech, manager at Ray’s Place, said the restaurant brings in an eclectic mix of people, including townies, older area residents and college students.

For many area businesses, college students make up more than half of the employees.

At Panini’s Bar and Grill, residing in Kent year round is almost a must-have job qualification.

“Most of our employees are college students who are taking classes year-round,” owner James Tribuzzo said. “Being able to work here all year is basically a prerequisite.”

Pfahl said Glory Days has all student employees. Although many businesses employ mostly college students, replacements are rarely hard to find.

With such a diverse array of students, individuals are always looking for jobs, Pfahl said.

Wordsmiths not only has mostly college student employees, but was founded by students 10 years ago.

Mary Friss, owner of Wordsmiths, said the shop stays perpetually busy by catering to small local businesses as well.

“We can do binding, color prints, lamination, fliers, business cards, stationary and mass mailings,” Friss said.

Friss said Wordsmiths is doing well because it has never raised prices and offers cost-effective products.

For Susan’s Coffee and Tea, catering to a diverse crowd is what keeps business steady.

“It’s not really a big risk to have a coffee place in a college town,” said supervisor Chris Sans. “Having a business so close to campus brings in a diverse group of people.”

Sans said Susan’s Coffee and Tea does shorten hours in the summer, but it does not affect business.

“We get a lot of retirees and locals coming in during the day,” he said.

Milana Estrada, director of retail operations for Susan’s Coffee and Tea, said the coffee shop has advertised in the Daily Kent Stater and through The Key to Kent Program. Despite competition with Starbucks down the street, Estrada said the competition between the two coffee houses is healthy.

“On their way to Starbucks, people notice we’re here,” Estrada said.

Though chains of corporations, such as Starbucks, Chipotle and Taco Bell have set up camp in Kent, Sans, also a Kent resident, still supports local businesses.

“I’ll walk the extra block to Taco Tanto’s instead of eating at Chipotle,” he said.

Doug Grunert, shift manager at Pufferbelly Restaurant, said having a business in a college town can be risky.

“It takes awhile to build up good clientele,” Grunert said.

For Phil Peachock, owner of Spin More Records, building up customer clientele has recently been a problem.

Spin More Records has been family-owned for 25 years. Peachock tried opening up two more locations in Stow and near University of Akron, but he was not successful.

Peachock said business is spotty, with summer and the holidays being the slowest. Spin More Records has recently encountered a problem with music downloading.

“Because downloading has gotten so popular, it’s hurting business,” Peachock said.

Peachock added that the longevity of the business is the only thing that keeps him motivated.

Offering a wide variety of art for the community is what motivates Nancy Arthur, clerk at The Works, in downtown Kent. The Works, which has been in business for 21 years, collects arts and crafts from over 375 area artisans.

Arthur said The Works has always kept the same hours of operation. That way, “people get used to it” and keep coming back.

Even as the campus vacates, Creech said having a business in a college town isn’t more risky than having a business anywhere else.

If a business has regulars, they’ll always have customers.

Contact features reporter Sara Macho at [email protected].