Despite voters across the country voicing their frustration over the slow pace of economic recovery during last week’s midterm elections, Collegetown appears to be showing strong economic progress. In the month of October, two Collegetown businesses opened their doors for the first time, and a third reopened.
Nail Candy Salon opened on Oct. 1; C.C.’s, which serves salads, wraps and smoothies, began serving customers on Oct. 18; and owners of the Vietnamese restaurant Xeo decided to re-brand their eatery and reopened it on Oct. 4 as Mexeo, a Mexican restaurant.
All of the restaurants’ owners said that they hoped that their eateries would fill a niche in the Collegetown market.
“Collegetown really needed a nail salon. There’s nothing else here. I just kept hearing through the grapevine, ‘nail salon, nail salon, nail salon,’” said Jennifer Russler, owner of Nail Candy Salon. “Owning my own business was a dream. I just took the risk, quit my job [as a human resources consultant] at Cornell, and opened it.”
“I’ve probably been planning it the past year and in the past few months I got really serious when the space opened that I wanted,” Russler added.
Likewise, Sebastian Villa, the owner of Mexeo, said that he thought that making the switch to Mexican food would meet a need for students.
“There’s been a big vacuum for Mexican food in Ithaca,” he said. “Food is something people are always going to need. Restaurants are always going to be a good bet.” Villa added that he plans to only use local food at Mexeo and has kept the restaurant open only a few hours a day in order to avoid “selling out” of his “limited amount of meat.”
Villa decided to make the conversion to Mexican food after he was denied a loan to expand Xeo to the empty storefront next door. If Xeo were not to expand, he said, it made more sense for him to switch to Mexican.
C.C.’s Owner Candice Williams ’08 echoed Villa’s and Russler’s sentiments.
“One day I was eating in Collegetown with a friend … and I was like, ‘there isn’t any place to get a good salad,’” Williams said.
Williams graduated this spring –– after taking some time off during school –– but was having trouble finding a job. So, she said she decided to stay in Ithaca and start her own place.
“I think that this generation of students, recent Cornell grads, are having to be creative with what they do after they graduate,” Williams said. “People have to take a lot of risk because they can’t expect to get those $70,000-a-year jobs anymore.”
Despite the tough economic climate, many have continued to tout the strength of the Collegetown economy.
“Luckily, because of the student population, and this is true for the city to an extent, [Collegetown] does have a kind of steady clientele,” said Alderperson Eddie Rooker ’09 (D-4th Ward), who is also a member of the Collegetown Neighborhood Council.
“I’m optimistic,” he added. “Restaurants have come in and are doing well so far.”
However, Rooker cautioned not to label these restaurants success stories just yet.
“It’s too early to tell. We thought Green Café was doing well, but it turned out it was not sustainable. Only time will tell if they can weather the economic times,” he said.
Original Author: Joseph Niczky