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Businesses welcome back students
WBIZ GSU GROCERIES 01
Georgia Southern students Mallory Mitchell, 21, of Cordele, and Cory Watson, 21, of Alpharetta pick up a few items at Harvey's Grocery Store Monday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
      After a slower than normal summer, the influx of university students and their families on "move-in" weekend was a welcome sight for local retailers.
      "We have a very steady local business, so we are certainly able to get through the summers," said John Goodman, store manager of the Harvey's grocery store on Fair Road in Statesboro. "But, there is nothing like the weekend that the students return. We are slammed, and our sales jump way up. It is great."
      Goodman said move-in weekend means long hours for his staff, many of whom are just transitioning in. "It is hectic in a lot of ways," he said. "We have new staff that haven't worked in this particular store before, and we have students that are returning to school and to work. It can be wild, but I love sales, and I love to see our numbers increase."
     It is understood among local retailers, restaurant owners, and the like, that businesses have to learn how to survive summers when the vast majority of the students leave the Statesboro area. For many, it is a very difficult period that takes a lot of getting used to.
      "We did very little business in July," said Carrie Vescio, co-owner of Mangiamo Italian Cuisine & Catering on South Main Street. "We opened in June, and did very well. We were really excited, and then July hit. We had heard that it is very tough for businesses in July, but you really don't understand it until you go through it. As of the first of August, when the university staff began to return, business turned around and we have been extremely busy ever since. We have made up for what we lost in July."
      While sales generated by university students is depended upon by many, some local retailers have learned not to count on those transactions for their livelihood.
      "We love for the students to come back, but they aren't as large of a part of our business as you may think," said Alisha Davis, co-owner of the Merle Norman Cosmetics Studio & Salon on East Main Street. "We have a steady local clientele which makes the summers much less nerve racking. However, we are truly grateful for both."
      One industry that has been particularly affected by the economic downtown combined with the summer doldrums is the local hotel/motel industry. "I know that prior to move-in weekend, some of our local properties were really struggling," said Jaime Riggs, executive director of the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It was an incredible shot-in-the-arm financially for some. This summer was especially tough, and everyone is just doing the best that they can to hang in there."
      History has shown that businesses have to plan for the summer slow down, while developing a clientele that carries them throughout the year. "Some people think of us as a college shop, but we really aren't," said Laura Lanier, owner of the Runway clothing store in the Market District on Fair Road. "Our summer really wasn't off that much. We did see a ‘bump' in business with sorority rush. We have worked hard at developing a good mix of business, so that we aren't overly dependent."