Jason Wu/Sun Senior Editor

Students drag suitcases up Dryden Road in Collegetown on Aug. 20, before the start of the 2022 fall semester. When students move out this spring, Collegetown businesses will experience a major downturn.

May 8, 2023

Collegetown Businesses Struggle With Lull in Customers Over Summer Break

Print More

While students eagerly await the end of finals season and the beginning of summer break, businesses in Collegetown are grappling with most of their customer base leaving town.

Cornell’s beloved Collegetown — which is home to a myriad of restaurants, bars and convenience stores — gets the majority of its business from students who are in Ithaca during the fall and spring semesters.

Workers in Collegetown expressed the drastic economic impact summer break has on their businesses.

Jose Lemus, manager at the Collegetown 7-Eleven, estimated that the store’s sales drop by 60 percent during the summer months.

Additionally, the break limits the number of jobs offered by Collegetown businesses.

“[During the summer, 7-Eleven has] less people working [and we have to] cut [their] hours,” Lemus said. 

Lemus added that the most challenging part of being a business in Collegetown is surviving the winter and summer breaks.

Chris Rabavilas, owner of Souvlaki House, also noted that their business loses its typical customer break between semesters. 

Souvlaki House is an iconic Collegetown restaurant on Eddy Street, known for its Greek and Italian food. They have been in Ithaca for 53 years according to Rabavilas, making them one of the more long-standing businesses in the area.

Rabavilas expressed that while it is nearly impossible to find parking along the streets of Collegetown while a semester is in session, it is much more convenient for local residents to explore Collegetown in the summer.

“A lot of local people come up the hill because [there is more] parking [available in the summer], but still, our business absolutely goes down,” Rabavilas said.

Rabavilas told The Sun that when school is in session, about 65 percent of their business comes from students, while 35 percent comes from locals. He estimates that it is the other way around during the summer.

Plumtree — a popular Japanese restaurant in Collegetown — reaffirmed that students are typically the dominant consumers in Collegetown.

“[During the] summertime, [business] slows down,” said Cindy Zhang, a worker at Plum Tree. “Mostly [our business comes from] students.”

However, despite the fluctuating customer base that comes with operating in a college town, Lemus expressed that he enjoys working in the center of Cornell’s residential life.

“[My favorite part about being a business in Collegetown is the] community,” Lemus said. “We get students from all over the world, so it’s fun to talk to them when they come into the store.”