The Daily Californian Online

Businesses Find Ways to Deal with Summer Slump

By Javier Panzar
Contributing Writer
Monday, June 22, 2009
Category: News

At the end of the spring semester roughly 20,000 students leave Berkeley for summer vacation and local businesses lose roughly 20,000 potential customers. Almost all see a downturn, of course, but the extent of the impact on these businesses-and the ways in which they cope-varies from shop to shop.

"It's a cycle that Berkeley is quite used to dealing with," said Cynthia Kroll, Senior Regional Economist at the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics, part of the Haas School of Business.

Although they have come to expect a drop in profits, businesses say the current recession is making this year's downturn more severe.

"This (summer) is the worst and I've been here 28 years," said Stan James, manager of Bill's Footwear on Telegraph Avenue.

Some businesses, such as eateries that rely heavily on students, feel the downturn more than others.

"I'm a block away from a school, I'm at the heart of a college town and because of that I'm more dependent on students," said Anthony Tasoulinh, manager and owner of Sufficient Grounds Coffee.

"I haven't made my daily minimum in sales since the day after the last day of school."

Businesses are taking different actions to deal with the slump.

Berkeley Sushi House was closed from May 22, the day after the semester ended, until June 2 because of the drop in business, according to owner Kim Hang.

Business at his restaurant dropped 50 percent last year over the summer but this summer the drop is closer to 75 percent, Hang said.

"We cut everything-hours, employees, orders, everything," said Armando Gonzales, Manager of IB's Hoagies & Cheesesteaks.

Sufficient Grounds is taking a different approach to increase business. "I'm taking a gamble and increasing my portions and hoping my reputation will drum up new business," said Tasoulinh.

Many older businesses, meanwhile, maintain healthy traffic over the summer due to a regular clientele that is not as dependent on students.

"I don't think we have as big a downturn because we rely on a more diverse customer base," said Craig Becker, co-owner and manager of Caffe Mediterraneum.

Caffe Mediterraneum, which opened in 1956, maintains its 7 a.m.-to-midnight hours through the summer despite the drop in business. "We prefer to project a reputation of reliability, it may hurt us a little bit, but it's worth it," Becker said.

Moe's Books, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in July, also credits its relatively small drop in business to its diverse customers.

"A lot of our customers are people from Berkeley; graduate students, faculty and community members," said owner Doris Moskowitz.

Tourists who come to Telegraph over summer also buffer business.

"Our customer base changes from students to tourists and locals," said Zoe Gholson, manager of Sharks Vintage, a clothing store.

Russell Bates, the man in charge of what he calls the "free speech table" on Telegraph, which sells bumper sticks, says his business actually picks up over the summer.

"I think people who come here over the summer have more time and can look at the table," he said.

Shakespeare & Co. bookstore's slowest months are actually the beginning and end of the school year, said owner Jon Wobber.

"(During the summer) we get lots of tourist business and summer students who have more time for recreational reading," he said.


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