Published Mon, Jun 4, 2012 2:53 pm Dateline
It’s finals week for Ohio University, which means many students are packing up to leave Athens for summer break.
What is a welcomed time for students can be a tough slowdown for local businesses, particularly those that count on students as customers.
When the university is in session, more than 21,000 students call Athens their home, doubling the city’s population.
For some local businesses, students make up the majority of their customer base and summer break means major adjustments.
“We always scale back on staff, and we do shorten our hours some,” said Josh Thomas, owner of Brenen’s Café. “On the weekends, we’re not open quite as late, so you just look at things you can cut back on for the summer, and that’s how you make it work.”
Brenen’s is just one of a number of businesses that have made it successfully through summers with students out of town, and the university’s change to the semester system beginning in the fall could be great news for local businesses.
Under the semester format, the school’s calendar will see significant changes, beginning with a shortened summer.
“I’m sticking around this summer and knocking some classes out,” said Jacob Mowery, and OU junior. “Summer is shorter and I want to get some classes done with under the quarter system still.”
The shortened summer seems to be giving more students reasons to stay in Athens, a trend that Thomas says he saw happening even before the calendar change.
“It seems like every summer we see a larger student population hang around,” Thomas said. “We use it as a time to hire some new students and get them trained and ready to go for the fall.”
Aside from wanting to make money, most students say they are using their summer break as a time to gain experience within their field.
Some university programs have started using the summer break as a time to offer students further options such as internships in and around Athens.
The OU Sports Administration department has teamed up with the Southern Ohio Copperheads, providing students the chance for real experience with a sports team while also taking classes and knocking out some required credits.
“When I started looking at what I was going to do this summer, it just seemed like being here and working was the best option,” said OU sophomore Nick Nebe. “I love Athens. If I can just stay here and make money and live in the house I’m already paying for, why wouldn’t I?”
Business owners say they are eager to see if the trend of students staying for the summer continues, and to see how the university’s switch to semesters will impact those numbers.