BGSU once again prepares for a six-week winter break, and while students use this time to study abroad, take classes, head home to work or spend time with family, the local businesses in downtown Bowling Green are left behind.
All BGSU students have a three-week winter break that follows the conclusion of the fall semester on Dec. 13 and runs until Jan. 2.
The winter session begins Jan. 2 and currently offers 59 online courses, 42 face-to-face courses and 12 study abroad classes with 1,409 students enrolled this year as reported by BG Independent News. Some students return for face-to-face courses while a large portion of the student body remains away from BGSU and Bowling Green until the start of spring semester on Jan. 27.
With this being the second year of BGSU's six-week winter, local coffee shops, restaurants and stores have prepared for the potential drop in business.
John Miniear, owner of local video game store Rock’em Sock’em Retro, said it was easier to prepare for students being gone for a few weeks but six is a bigger challenge.
“Still get your regulars or students who come back (early) but still hurts when your primary business is gone for six weeks,” Miniear said.
Gary Dible, owner of the local Biggby Coffee shop, said his business didn’t dip as much during the 2018 winter session as it did in previous years.
“Last year’s J Term we saw an improvement from 12% drop in sales (compared to the past),” he said.
Dible said when students were away in past years, the average drop in sales was around 22%. Community engagement has been the key to raising sales during breaks, Dible said, and he’s expecting about a 10-12% drop in sales during the winter session.
Other coffee shops in Bowling Green are preparing more for the decrease in staff than a drop in sales. Co-owner of Grounds for Thought Kelly Wicks said the coffee shop’s winter challenges have more to do with staffing as employees request time off or head home for the holidays.
“Fortunately we have a good crew; everyone is pretty flexible,” he said.
Wicks also said there are no real negative effects on Grounds for Thought with the extended break since there are other parts of the business to help make up the losses. The longer break and course offerings are a “good opportunity” for students, he said.
Floyd Craft, the owner of Ben’s Crafts, said his store gets a large part of its business from community members compared to university students.
Craft is unsure about the effects this year’s six-week break will have on his store but did note an 8% or 9% drop last January. However, he said the decrease could have easily been caused by the weather or economy.
“Would rather not have that big break in the school year but not a huge deal for us,” Craft said.
A manager at SamB’s, Sandy Daum, said she’s concerned for employees who have to leave for the break because they don’t have housing in the area while the university is closed. Finding replacements for employees who head home for break is also a challenge.
“It’s hard on the staff who have to leave because they potentially — if we have to fill the position while they’re gone — they might not have a position when they come back or might not have (as many) hours,” she said, also sharing her concern for what those employees will do for work during the break. “Maybe they pick up a job back home, but we care about our people because we’re family.”
This is only the second year of a longer BGSU winter session, and the reviews are mixed from students, faculty and community members. Local businesses, some affected more than others, continue to find ways to adjust to the change as they expect this six-week session to be a part of the yearly routine.