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Wednesday, June 19
The Indiana Daily Student

city business & economy bloomington

As students pack up to leave for the summer, local businesses anticipate a slower economy

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In the coming weeks, thousands will leave Bloomington as the spring semester ends. Those individuals are not just students, but participants in the city’s local economy, which has an active community of businesses centered near the IU campus.  

Business definitely decreases over the summer months, Christopher Emge, director of advocacy and public policy for the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, said. A large amount of downtown housing will become vacant and not as many students will stay in Bloomington for summer classes. During summer term 2023, just short of 4,000 students were enrolled in at least one on-campus class, compared to more than 8,800 students taking classes completely online.  

Students not only purchase from local businesses but are also employed by them, working off-campus jobs. However, the decrease in both business and staffing can work in some businesses’ favor, Emge said. 

“Just from talking to a few businesses, I know that there are employees that did leave for the summer, but they need less employees,” Emge said. “So, it kind of works out. When they need a little bit less help, they have less help available to put on the schedule.”  

Businesses located in Bloomington’s downtown area and near campus face more than the threat of a large population decrease. For the first time since 2019, sections of Kirkwood Avenue won’t be closed to automobile traffic during summer months.  

The Expanded Outdoor Dining Program, implemented in 2020, was created with intentions to combat COVID-19 capacity restrictions but continued to be implemented the years following. The 2023 Kirkwood closure included blocks between Grant Street and Dunn Street, Dunn Street and Indiana Avenue and Washington Street to Walnut Street. 

The reason the city won’t be continuing with Kirkwood closure in 2024 is due to the Hidden River Pathway Project, which will require portions of Indiana Avenue be closed for construction. Kirkwood Avenue will need to remain open for redirected traffic. Emge said the response from chamber members has been mostly positive.  

“I think businesses are looking forward to when it’s consistently open or closed so they can plan ahead,” Emge said.  

Even with students leaving Bloomington, university camps, summer programs and new student orientation bring visitors to the city over the summer. Kailey Dorantes, manager of the clothing store Pitaya, says while business is slower, shipments don’t decrease, and the store doesn’t lose a lot of its staff.  

“We definitely are slower,” Dorantes said. “But there are random camps that IU does that keeps us busy on any random week.”  

Austin Albin, assistant manager of Parlor Donuts on Kirkwood Avenue, said that the store makes less money over the summer. It will schedule less staff and order less supplies. While weekends may stay busy, weekdays are slow, Albin said.  

“We order less dough,” Albin said. “Coffee still sells pretty regularly because there is still summer school — people will come in, drink coffee, sometimes study — but dough definitely decreases. We sell less doughnuts.”  

Albin said it's hard to tell how the discontinuation of the Expanded Outdoor Dining Program will impact business, but he said he imagines the walkability of Kirkwood in past summers has been beneficial.  

"We’re kind of hard to see,” Albin said. “Driving by, you might not even see us, but if you’re walking by and you see a doughnut place, you might want to come check us out.” 

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