Business Booming with JMU Students Back

By: Josh Knight Email
By: Josh Knight Email

During the past few weeks, thousands of James Madison University students have come back to school for another semester.

This means some locals are complaining about traffic on the roads, but local store owners aren't complaining about the traffic through their doors.

Chanello's Pizza owner Pat Roberts says he caters to the late night college crowd. While his business does fine while college students are home for the summer, things only get get busier and better when they come back.

"For my business, it's dramatic. We increase our staff probably four fold. On Friday and Saturday nights, we'll be running with 15 or 16 delivery drivers," says Roberts.

Brad Driver, the owner of Backstage Video, also takes advantage of the late night lifestyle of the JMU students.

"We see an uptick in our stores because we're 24 hours a day and the night time, because you know students are kind of nocturnal," says Driver.

He also points out that it's important to embrace the energy and life college students can bring to the city of Harrisonburg.

Still, it's not just businesses geared towards late night customers that are doing well.

Kathleen Lantz, who manages Plato's Closet, notices major changes in the number of shoppers coming into the store after it went through its first summer.

"During the summer time, we might see 50 people come into the store, but when school is here we see hundreds come in and out," says Lantz.

Cab companies in the area also see a large increase in business. Billy Collins, who drives for ABC Cab, says they add 18 night shift drivers when the students come back to town.

"The shear volume of calls, sometimes quadruples, even quintuples," says Collins.

ABC Cab drivers also get personal requests on their cell phones for pick ups. Just last Friday, Collins had an additional 93 of these private calls.

Other restaurants like Smoothie King and Subway experience a rise in sales as well.

Subway Manager Kristie Ford describes, "During the summer, things are fine. We keep our locals, people at doctors offices or nearby offices still come in everyday but when JMU comes back, there is a definite difference. Some times we just get slammed."

Thrift stores such as the Goodwill and Salvation Army also see a fair number of students come through the doors.

"Students often come to us for themed parties, especially 50s, 60s or anything goes parties," says Rachel Kyger, Assistant Manager at the Goodwill.

Lantz says the summer was tough, especially since fewer people were shopping at Plato's Closet. She hopes the students return will change that.

"I'm ecstatic that their back," adds Lantz.


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