June 28, 2016
Summer brings ups and downs for a college town
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Tables line restaurants Friday on Main Street. With nearly 7,000 SUNY Cortland students gone for the summer, it is easier to find space at outdoor tables as seating at Main Street restaurants is more available.
When college is in session, throughout the week SUNY Cortland students can be found meandering downtown, providing a wealth of revenue for numerous Main Street businesses.
But for some, with school now out for the summer, what was once a time of continuous income has slowed close to a halt.
“Accounts are down. I had to downsize employees,” said Jackie Langendoenfer, owner of Jumpin’ Jax House of Wings, at 46 Main St. “It is really tough.”
College students are about 50 to 60 percent of her business, she said. And being a new business, she is still trying to build a rapport with locals.
She said through her interactive nature she tries to be a friendly face to all who come in, hoping they start a positive word of mouth chain about the restaurant with friends and family.
Eric Cook, owner of Calios, at 120 Main St., said he remembers the struggles of being a new business and trying to attract customers. With time, more residents became aware of the business, helping income during the summer, but the lack of students is still a problem, Cook said.
He also said the students are about 50 percent of his business. The summer months are slow without them, but their absence is not putting Cook out of business. To compensate for the absence of students, Cook said he creates special buy-one-get-one-free offers and sends out flyers to better attract locals.
Carrie Kash, owner of Sacred Tattoos & Piercing, at 83 Main St., takes a similar approach, as her business is another that relies on the students for half its profits. She said she has a loyal local clientele, but to fill the void of student revenue, she institutes more special advertising.
“I do most of my advertising with the college, so I have to be creative with it (when the students are gone),” Kash said about a large billboard she has at the college’s baseball field. “You need to make sure people see it. I have to mix it up sometimes.”
For A Pizza and More, at 104 Main St., there is a change in income, but just in the time of day, said Brody Towener, manager of the pizzeria. When the students are in town the restaurant is most busy during the night, but now the students are gone and the days are warmer, most of the business is during the day through locals, Towener said.
Some of the downtown businesses flourish with the students no longer in town — mostly due to the change in season. Lisa Crupe, owner of Indulge, at 89 Main St., said during the summer a lot of people come in ordering food for various parties and events.
The same goes for Frosted Bakery, at 133 Main St. Manager. Employee Dan Furgal said their breakfast sandwich sales may fall a little, but the shop is incredibly busy during the summer as it is the graduation and wedding season.
“The week the students go, summer business starts right up and we have a bunch of weddings to get ready for,” Furgal said.
The Finger Lakes Tasting Room, at 32 Main St., does not rely on students for its revenue, said owner Shannon Terwilliger, as it caters more toward wine enthusiast adults. However, the business does see a surge in profits due to students’ final day on campus: graduation.
Another benefit Terwilliger said she gets from having students around is they tend to be excellent hires.
In a few months, students will once again swarm the SUNY Cortland campus and make their way from business to business downtown, driving up revenues.
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