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Local businesses get boost as students move in

Ryan Sydlik | Thursday, August 17, 2006

With more than 8,000 Notre Dame students slated to arrive in South Bend by Sunday, local businesses are prepping for their arrival – and a likely boost in sales.

Superstore Meijer on Grape Road in Mishawaka has stocked up on items usually needed by college students, said General Manager Michael McKinnies. They have everything from futons, laundry baskets and hangers to kitchen and bath accessories, stationery and storage containers.

Knott Hall sophomore and Frosh-O Commissioner Dan Canders has been to Meijer three times already to pick up food and other necessities.  

“It’s good because you can get things you forget at home, like shower stuff,” he said.

To lure students – especially freshmen – the store is planning a celebration on Friday and Saturday. Events for the store’s “traveling road show” include an XBOX competition, a Dance Dance Revolution tournament, a rock climbing wall and plenty of giveaways.

Modern rock station 103.9 WRBR is also slated to broadcast from Meijer during the two-day event.

For setting up dorm rooms, students often turn to large home improvement stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s.

“Lowe’s is good for building a loft and getting a carpet,” said Matt Medlock, a resident assistant in Alumni Hall. “I’ll probably be going there very soon.”

Bed Bath & Beyond is trying to take advantage of incoming students by placing a giant “Students Welcome” sign over its main entrance. They also extended store hours for this weekend.

Assistant Store Manager Steve Rutz said that he wants students to take advantage of the company’s “pack and hold scan items” system. The service allows students to find and pay for items at any Bed Bath & Beyond in the country and then pick them up at the Grape Road location.

Borders Bookstore is preparing for the increase in student shoppers by bringing in more back-to-school supplies, as well as having a few more staff members in the store, said inventory supervisor Heather Planert.

“We’re treating the rush just like any holiday,” she said.

Pinnacle Athletic Club on Edison Road has received calls from students inquiring about membership sign-ups, said general manager Jim Bradford.

Bradford is grateful for the students because this time of year tends to be flat for health clubs.  

“August and September are usually slow months, but the students coming in offset that,” he said.

Undergraduates are not the only intended consumers of local businesses.

Cody and Erin Groeber, recently married, are third-year law students looking to furnish their new home. Furniture Now Outlet was one of the area stores they visited and liked because of the low prices they found.

“We’ve been doing a few carloads the last few days,” Erin said.

Craig Summerix, a first-year store manager of Furniture Now, said he is not sure what to expect as far as the number of patrons goes, but that he is sure his sales will have a “big bump.”

Summerix expects to see off-campus students and incoming freshmen come into the store in the coming week.

Local restaurants also took steps to attract students to their establishments, as they are often good customers throughout the year, said John Cataldo, general manager of Bruno’s Pizza.

The popular restaurant is having a student appreciation night next week and is offering additional coupons on its Web site, Cataldo said.

Gas stations are also vying for student business.  

Greg Evans, general manager at Speedway gas station, wants students to join the Speedy Rewards Program, which allows people to get gift cards for store items when they buy gas.

Stephanie “Toni” Williams, a disc jockey for 95.3 WAOR, said she loves seeing the students come back to South Bend.  

“They are definitely huge for our economy,” she said. “We need to embrace them the best we can.”