By Katy Kelly
It’s a pretty well-known fact: You can’t take the College Park out of the Terp. But think about this: What happens when you take the Terp out of College Park?
If you have ever spent a summer living in College Park, then you know firsthand just how rapidly this college town transforms into a ghost town once final exams are over. The moment the professor collects the last exam, students pack up their things in their respective apartments and dorm rooms and hit the road.
However, as these collegians (hopefully) leave their worries and troubles behind them, they also leave behind several College Park establishments that depend on their business.
Every long break from school results in thousands of students leaving the livable community for months at a time. This sudden outflow of consumers changes the way local businesses are run, and the kinds of profits they earn during these holiday hiatuses.
In fact, according to Randall Toussaint, the City of College Park’s economic development coordinator, the city loses approximately $7 million of retail a year because students leave.
Athena Park, a UMD graduate and current employee at Ten Ren’s Café on Route 1, says she notices the difference in customer volume during the year as compared to winter or summer break.
“It’s a really big contrast as compared to during the school year because during the school year things can get really crazy,” Park said. “During the year we will have two servers at a time and things are still quite hectic, but during the summer, we only have one person and they are totally fine by themselves.”
Other than the smaller number of employees scheduled to work during the holiday times, Park mentioned that the Asian-inspired establishment also see a decrease in revenue.
“During the past few years our sales have been highest in October, but during summer our revenues are not even half,” she added.
Just across the street at Bagel Place, which was established in 1983, employee Hunter Hartman agreed with a lot of what Park stated.
“Typically, worker-wise, the students go home and it is the people who live in College Park full-time that work here,” Hartman said. “And as far as it goes for customers, it is usually College Park regulars in the summer because students usually go home.”
“Unless people are taking summer classes we really don’t see students during that time,” he added.
Local business manager Vasant Patel, who runs the Gateway convenience store on Campus Drive also claims that the winter, and especially summer months hurt his business and he sees a significant decrease in revenue. Most of Patel’s customers are students. So, to help stabilize business during these times, Patel would make changes to the store hours and inventory.
“We change our hours being open from 10 p.m. to 8 p.m.,” Patel said.
“We are prepared to keep less of some products of the shelves, otherwise they will expire because no one is buying them and we would have to throw it away,” he added.
Toussaint acknowledges the dilemmas that community store owners face, and is keeping an eye on these patterns. However, Toussaint noted that College Park is not alone.
“It is an interesting thing, and it is common in many college towns,” Toussaint said.
The economic development coordinator also said that the holiday breaks do not necessarily equate to less foot traffic and business.
“Although students leave, there are also groups of businesses who, believe it or not, benefit from students leaving,” he said. For example, there is a local company in town called College Scooters and Cycles for students who want to store their scooters over summer. This demand has actually increased over the past several years.”
When asked if the city has any plans to increase local business in College Park, especially when revenue fluctuates during these summer months, Toussaint said that the city is aiming to micro-target certain areas in College Park and provide certain businesses that attract people throughout the entire year.
“We are trying to attract more stores that will create a greater degree of balance over time, such as retail,” Toussaint said. “And as the Purple Line comes into play, that will be another wonderful opportunity for retailers.”