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Local businesses plan for student summer hiatus

As the semester ends, local businesses prepare for fewer students on campus.
Image by David Stager
Shoes on display at Smileback Vintage in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 22. Some businesses plan on adding outdoor seating, creating seasonal items or growing their social media presence for the upcoming summer months.

As a large portion of local businesses’ clientele leave for summer break, they are preparing to make changes to make the most of the summer months.

Some businesses are affected more than others with some seeing an increase in customers from around the cities. The warmer weather allows businesses to do things they would not otherwise be able to like expanding outside seating and adding seasonal inventory.

Smile Back Vintage, a vintage clothing store, opened in 2022 with most of its customers consisting of students, but during the summer their customer base shifts, according to store manager James Giese.

“We have a lot of loyal customers who are students elsewhere, so in the summertime, they come and shop for us pretty regularly,” Giese said. 

Giese said they switched their inventory six weeks ago to bring out summer clothing and take out the heavier apparel.

“We have had a phenomenal last six months with inventory,” Giese said. “We’ve been able to find a lot so we’re very stocked up.”

Owner of Mim’s Cafe in St. Paul Mahmoud Shahin said about half of their customers are students and faculty while the other half are from around the Twin Cities, so they remain busy throughout the summer. Shahin said the St. Paul campus is different since it mostly consists of year-round graduate students.

Shahin said Mim’s has outside seating during the summer which helps draw in more customers.

“In the summer, it’s nice we have our outside patio, we plant our flowers and try to create a nice atmosphere outside especially in the afternoon so people could come and just sit outside and enjoy their day,” Shahin said.

Bordertown Coffee added tables and umbrellas outside in the spring to increase visibility since the location is hard to find, according to general manager Josh Silker.

“If you know about us then you know where to find us, but if you don’t, we get a lot of people calling and asking, ‘Where are you guys again?’” Silker said. “Going to a fraternity house to get coffee is not a usual experience for most people.”

Silker added that customers have a more consistent cafe experience in the summer since the store is slower and has more open tables. Since most of Bordertown’s customers are students, it tends to be packed throughout the school year.

“During the semester you’ll walk in basically anytime from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the entire seating area will be packed and it’s very difficult to find a place to sit down,” Silker said. “During the summer there’s always tables open.”

Beyond open tables and outdoor seating, Silker said Bordertown will invest more time into social media to draw in more customers.

Giese said Smile Back plans on utilizing social media to try and bring in more customers. 

“We had a reel on Instagram that didn’t go crazy viral but it got to 80,000 views, and the preceding three or four weeks we definitely noticed a big difference in daily traffic,” Giese said.

For students staying on campus, several stores will have exclusive items over the summer. Bordertown will add seasonal drinks, emphasize iced beverages and possibly hold events with local musicians.

“We’re hopeful to do some events,” Silker said. “But that’s a little bit more in the planning or idea phase.”

Shahin said customers can enjoy the outdoor seating, air-conditioned dining rooms and free Wi-Fi throughout the summer. Shahin added he thinks the food tastes the best during the summer months despite the menu staying the same.

“One nice thing about the summer is the food always tastes amazing because we prepare everything from scratch,” Shahin said. “The vegetables just taste amazing in the summer, so even though it’s the same menu it tastes a little bit different in the summertime.”

Giese said Smile Back Vintage is planning summer sales either on specific items or a random 50% off.

“We have so many t-shirts, so we’re looking forward to selling them and hopefully see everybody through the summer months,” Giese said.

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