Campus businesses see dollar signs

Heather L. Mueller

While students reveled in free time over winter break, local businesses cut back on staff, reduced inventory and shortened operating hours to compensate for an expected sales decrease.

The House of Hanson owner Perry Bauer, a University alumnus, doesn’t sugarcoat what Dinkytown looks like when finals are over.

“It’s dead; it’s Deadville,” he said.

Several businesses near the University estimated experiencing a one-third drop in sales over winter break.

But now students are back – sloshing along Stadium Village and Dinkytown sidewalks ready to sip a café mocha, chow down between classes and drink some beers with friends at their favorite campus bars.

Hair By Stewarts stylist Margot McCabe said business was “booming” shortly before the holidays but then dropped off after finals week when many students left the area and went home for the holidays.

But as all the stylists busily clipped and dyed clients’ hair, it was clear things were getting back to normal.

“We’re especially busy right now because people want new looks and new colors,” McCabe said before seating Siri Nelson, an accounting senior, at her chair to highlight her near shoulder-length blond hair.

“It’s the beginning of a new semester so I wanted a new look to start fresh,” Nelson said, adding that she’s relieved it will be her last semester at the University.

“I’m getting ready for work and starting a new life in the real world,” she said.

Two blocks away from the heart of Dinkytown, Bordertown Coffee baristas shuffled behind the counter passing out muffins and cookies and pouring warm cups of coffee as a consistent line of faculty and students formed a line before the cashier.

Just a few weeks prior, Bordertown was empty with a few sparse customers popping in for coffee, said barista Kate Watson, describing the area as a “ghost town.”

“It’s cheesy, but it’s good to see everyone again and familiar faces,” Watson said.

Blarney Pub and Grill General Manager Adam Lanoue said although competition from other bars and cold weather may have had an effect on profits during winter break, sporting events, private parties and new drink deals are expected to steadily draw students back this semester.

“Sports help a bit but there is more business when students are here,” Lanoue said, adding that changes in the crowd of regulars is to be expected.

“It’s a cycle of people’s tastes,” he said.

But for The Village Wok in Stadium Village, students returning to dorms and apartments near Washington Avenue meant a snowy Sunday night of refilling hot tea and serving up fortune cookies.

“It’s a toss-up – stress versus money,” said cashier Nikki Grossman about the seasonal flux in business. “Money’s always good.”