With winter break comes a chill for businesses near U campus

Some businesses plan reduced hours, others will close their doors while students are away.

by Bryce Haugen

Washington Avenue Southeast businesses bustled with activity Monday.

But in less than two weeks, many of the customers who frequent Stadium Village will return home for the holidays. From Dinkytown to the West Bank, businesses near campus must cope with the annual monthlong mass exodus.

That’s just one of the realities of owning a business near campus, said Anne Ferguson, Dairy Queen and Orange Julius franchisee.

“Without any customers here, it doesn’t make any sense to stay open,” said Ferguson, who will close her two stores from Dec. 22 to Jan. 16.

She said the extended break provides valuable family time and an opportunity to tackle odd jobs at her restaurants.

Unlike Dairy Queen, many businesses remain open during winter break, but many reduce hours and tweak staffing schedules.

Down the street at Espresso Expose, manager Toby Mroczek said that over break it and the Purple Onion, a Dinkytown coffee shop he also manages, will close at 8 p.m. instead of midnight.

And some of the student employees who remain in the area will work fewer hours during break, he said.

Working behind the counter, interior design sophomore Katie Liesener said she hopes to work as many hours as possible.

“I have nothing else to do,” she said. “This is what I need for rent.”

At Great Clips across the street, employees face seasonal redeployment to busier suburban locations.

“You still get your hours,” said manager and stylist Abbie Evers, who said business decreases by as much as 75 percent some days. “You just might do it someplace else.”

Stadium Village businesses continue to serve University staff and faculty members who work over break, said Campus Pizza & Pasta manager and Stadium Village Commercial Association President Jim Rosvold. That, he said, combined with hockey, basketball and other sporting events, provides periodic reprieves during the otherwise quiet period.

“There’s a dip, but it’s not a complete ghost town,” he said.

Pat Clough, owner of Oak’s Hardware on Como Avenue Southeast, said his business actually increases over break as landlords use the time to repair their properties.

“When everyone else’s (business) is slowing down,” he said, “mine gets better.”

While Clough’s business thrives over break, in Dinkytown and the West Bank many businesses face the same sort of challenges as in Stadium Village.

“At one point, people put Dinkytown on their agenda for Christmas shopping,” said Dinkytown Business Association President Skott Johnson, who owns Autographics on Fourth Street Southeast.

Those days are mostly over, he said, but more and more people have their holiday parties in the area.

Winter break’s effects on Dinkytown is “sort of case by case,” said Johnson, whose printing business sees a minor decrease in sales.

Alex Betzenheimer, a former University student and interim general manager at the consumer-owned North Country Co-op on the West Bank, said that although the store sees fewer sales over winter break, it’s not nearly as severe as the summer months, when business drops by as much as 20 percent.

“It seems like there are still more people around, even if they aren’t on campus,” he said.

Except for limited hours during the day and on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, the co-op will maintain its normal schedule over break, so will the East Bank’s two Harvard Market locations.

“You want to remain consistent for your customer base,” said Brad Mateer, who has owned Harvard Market for 10 years.

Stub & Herb’s owner Sue Jeffers, who stopped in to talk commercial association business with Mateer on Monday afternoon, agreed.

“Heck yeah,” she said. “You still gotta drink. It’s time to celebrate the holidays.”