Slower but steady: Cornering the summer market

During the summer, Corner businesses adapt to a smaller population with fewer customers. Photo courtesy of Skyclad Aerial. During the summer, Corner businesses adapt to a smaller population with fewer customers. Photo courtesy of Skyclad Aerial.

By Caroline Eastham

During the summer, the UVA student population dwindles from near 25,000 to around 4,000. Despite this significant decrease, it’s business as usual for many Corner restaurants and stores, which have learned over the years to use this time as an opportunity to cater to different crowds and to improve overall customer experience.

Cal Mincer, vice president at Mincer’s, says staying afloat is not a concern for the sportswear store, especially with recent national championships for UVA men’s basketball and lacrosse. “This summer we are definitely summer-proof,” he says. “With two championships back to back…business is as good as it’s ever been.”

Summer events like sports camps and reunions also contribute to expected annual business surges, he says. “We definitely have slow periods in most summers without the students, but we also have some of our busiest weekends in the summer.”

At Corner Juice, the summer offers a time to reset and consider aspects that may get overlooked during the hectic school year, says Willem van Dijk, director of operations. “The nice thing about the summer is that there’s time to rethink your menu and rethink the experience. You get to really have a conversation with people and make sure that they are getting the best experience possible.”

Corner Juice tweaks its hours during the warm months. “It works better to have concentrated hours in which you want your customers to come for those breakfast and lunch times,” says van Dijk. During the school year, he says the restaurant can have a line out the door for hours at a time. “You don’t get that when there’s 20,000 people missing, but we cope.” The juicery is using the summer to open a second location on the Downtown Mall.

Other Corner establishments offer deals or special menu items to sustain customer traffic. Brittany Knouse, Trinity Irish Pub general manager, says the bar has specials to boost business. “We want to offer something to people who work at the hospital and around the Corner and keep them coming back,” she says.

Similarly, at Roots Natural Kitchen, assistant crew leader Lisa Oktayuren says the UVA hospital and Charlottesville families serve as some of its biggest customer groups during the summer. “The knowledge of students being gone brings out all the other people,” she says. “People like to have a cleared Corner versus a crowded Corner. Summer isn’t an obstacle, it’s just a different perspective.”