Locals Brace for Impact of Student Influx

img_2797As the summer months draw to a close and the cloud cover makes its return, businesses around town are getting ready to buckle down for the up and coming school year. Corvallis’ summer silence will soon give way to the familiar hustle and bustle of more than 25,000 Oregon State University students. They’ve already started making their way back into town, as the first full day of classes isSeptember 21.

Roughly a quarter of the students heading towards Corvallis this year are completely new. In the Fall of 2015, 7,447 of the 29,576 students enrolled at OSU were first time enrollers. This includes incoming freshmen, graduate students, as well as transfers. That’s 7,000 students trying to navigate their new hometown, whether it’s figuring out their favorite off-campus study spot, discovering the best place for a brew after class, or finding the right bus route around town.

But for Mike Easter, owner of the 21-year-old Cycletopia, the real indicator of a newcomer is catching someone “going down a one-way road the wrong way.” Those who have been in Corvallis long enough are no stranger to snickering at an oncoming car, especially when school is back in session. Easter also describes the start of fall term as more intimidating than summer months due to the sheer volume of cars and people occupying the downtown area.

Regarding Cycletopia’s activity though, business goes on as usual. Since most of their customer base are regular riders, the spike in used bike sales when the school year hits is simply an added perk.

The same goes for Scott Givens over at Browser’s Books. As students are often on the prowl for alternative sources for textbooks, Givens is happy to step in. He says, “During the school year we definitely sell more of the classics like Steinbeck and Hemmingway,” and that “more students are coming in every year.” Givens mentioned this could have something to do with their increased presence on Instagram and Facebook in an effort to reach a larger portion of the population.

Ruby Moon, owner of The Golden Crane, whose sales actually pick up in the summer due to visitors passing through, reports getting more graduate students stopping by than any other kind. “Students don’t affect us, they all shop online,” she explains. She continues, “Online is killing retail.” As a business owner since 1980, the come and go of students doesn’t phase her.

Imagine Coffee is on the other end of the spectrum. Open since 2011, their five-year anniversary is up this month. Just last fall they “had one of the biggest months ever,” according to Marlene McDonald, co-owner. When school is back in session, students hunt for study spots, and despite being relatively far away from campus, Imagine Coffee provides a wealth of table space and barn-like ceilings to foster those big ideas. McDonald and co-owner Barb Langton usually notice a shift from cold to warm drink requests, and as customers move to spend more time inside than in the rain, table space vanishes quick.

But of course, those businesses closer to campus get hit the hardest when it comes to the September influx. The foot traffic on Monroe grows exponentially, but that’s not to say it’s unexpected. Places like American Dream Pizza and Interzone employ a lot of students, so they not only see a jump in business activity, but they get their workers back too. During the summer, Interzone owner Bill McCanless was left working weekends, something he normally does not do, in order to cover the amount of labor needed to keep the place going.

According to Henry Winowiecki, a bartender at the Handle Bar who makes a mean Bloody Mary, the summer months are a good time to get in extra training to prepare for the rush of the school year. When it comes to the summer experience, he loves getting a taste of both sides of Corvallis.

“As much as we get to hear what the kids are talking about during the year, you get to hear the other side of the conversation through the summer… I love getting to know them because they’re the real regulars and they make up the core of the Dream,” he says.

And as the time on Dream’s familiar countdown clock ticks closer to the next football game, so does the countdown to classes and new faces. “It’s always fun watching new people feel out a new bar,” Winowiecki continues. He also says that there will be a new addition to the Handle Bar this fall: a sign indicating the number of steps it takes to walk from the Handle Bar to any of the various campus stadiums.

Brian Bovee of American Dream sums up the summer transitions pretty well. “In June we are ready for the students to leave and by August we are ready for the students to be back and bring that energy and life that makes college so much fun.” So as the locals get ready to retreat and make room for the flood of Oregon State students, businesses brace for impact.

By Regina Pieracci