Owners see 25-percent or larger increase in sales
As undergraduates pour onto campus this week, local businesses popular among college students are gearing up for the uptick in customers that fall classes bring. At Cool Beans, owner Kitty Mirosavich said her cafe sees about a 35 percent increase in sales when students return, as their late-night studying is often accompanied with caffeine needs.
“It definitely makes a big difference,” Mirosavich said. “It’s not a complete downturn during the summer because faculty and graduates are still here, but having the undergrads back makes a huge impact for this area.”
Mirosavich said her key to keeping the college crowd interested was an expansive menu and expanded hours. Cool Beans is open every night until midnight, and Mirosavich recently opened a new restaurant in the same College Street building called College Grounds Café. The restaurant serves brunch and fresh doughnuts every day.
While Cool Beans thrives by offering a chill atmosphere, other businesses feed the intense and exciting phenomenon known as football season. Mark Ward, franchise owner of Wing Zone on Assembly Street, said his popular delivery joint sees a 25 percent increase in business in the fall.
“Sales increase, revenue increases, staffing increases, everything goes up,” Ward said. “Football is good for us.”
Ward said his strategy is sending advertisements directly to students through the mail and flyer distribution on campus, as well as offering specials for budget-limited students.
But where do students go after watching a football game? Believe it or not, many head to Five Points to either revel in victory or drink away a defeat. Scott Linaberry owns Sharky’s and Red Hot Tomatoes, two popular college bars on Harden Street.
“Compared to summer, we do get an influx of different clientele, but our sales go down anywhere from 25 to 40 percent,” Linaberry said. “But it’s a completely different crowd. It’s a lot of the service industry people who tend to come out a lot more, a lot of locals; I don’t know if they’re reclaiming Five Points from the students or we just don’t recognize them when the students are here.”
Linaberry called football season a “huge bonus” for his businesses. On a July Friday night, Linaberry said about 100 people visit his bars. That number can increase tenfold during a Friday night before a home game in the fall, when 1,000 may visit.
Linaberry said advertising and campus coupon books were his keys to success.
“I definitely know how Five Points works,” Linaberry said. “I definitely consider Columbia a tourist town, except our tourists are here for four years, sometimes five.”
Linaberry laughed, adding, “If I’ve done my job well, it’s five.”