After a slow summer, business owners in downtown Elon are breathing a sigh of relief that the students are back.
At the Oak House, sales over move-in weekend were a big improvement from the dog days of summer, according to owner Phil Smith.
“Friday it was like opening up a fire hydrant, and that fire hydrant stays open all semester,” Smith said. “We will deposit more money on Monday than we do in the month of July.”
The business boom correlates with the fact that the students population increased more than tenfold over the past week. According to the Registrar’s office, 5,622 students were enrolled in on-campus classes last spring. Over the summer, about 300 students were registered for classes, internships, or research on campus.
Smith says his sales in the summer make up only 10% of the store’s total profit, attributing the drastic drop to the fact that his business caters specifically to students.
Next door at Pandora’s pies, owner Peter Ustach says their summer sales drop by 60%. It’s not as dramatic as their neighbor because the pizza place welcomes a change in clientele over the summer.
“We get a ton of locals; a lot of people prefer not to come to Elon when the students aren’t here,” Ustach said. “It’s harder to park, Elon students can get rowdier and make it tougher to bring a family in to eat, and [during the summer] they appreciate having the place to themselves.”
To survive the slowdown, the businesses employ fewer staff and cut down on store hours.
“During the summertime we just kind of scale back on everything,” Ustach said.
Smith says most of his employees are students that leave during school breaks, but it works for the business model because he only needs a few employees over the summer months.
To supplement sales, Pandora’s sells concessions at a local pool, and the Oak House sometimes closes to host private events.
“We couldn’t close for a Saturday during the school year,” Smith said. Over the summer, the Oak House closed one weekend for a Bat Mitzvah.
Now that school is back in full swing, business is booming again.
“We are glad to see everybody back, I will say that,” said Smith.