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A shot in the arm

August 28, 2012
By Steve Browne , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - East College Drive funnels traffic on the east side of town through a row of businesses and past Southwest State Minnesota University. Every fall, thousands of students come to Southwest Minnesota State University, swelling the potential customer base.

Students buy food, clothes, hard goods, and entertainment. The effect on some businesses is quite large.

"It gets a lot busier when the students are around," said Brianna Brush who works at Family Video rental. "They use it for classes sometimes when there's an assignment with a movie involved. We're the only movie place for a ways and it's cheap for poor college students."

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Photo by Steve Browne

Domino’s Pizza employee Jesse Schreifels found himself multitasking as he took and order while preparing another pizza for delivery Monday evening. Domino’s is one of many businesses along East?College Drive that welcome the added business during the school year.

A lot of the businesses on East College are restaurants, and students have to eat like anyone else.

Brenda Wittrock is co-owner of Jimmy John's, which opened in 2008.

"It does make a bit of a difference," Wittrock said, "10 percent maybe."

Wittrock said they are always looking to hire new staff during the school year to keep up with the increased business.

Angie Hettling manages Papa Murphy's which specialized in take-and-bake pizza.

"I guess we do see more students as we offer them $2 off on their ID card," Hettling said. I think any time you move in you've got to get something easy. We're busier in fall but it's hard to tell if it's just because it's cooler."

However, Erin Samuelson, manager of Papa John's Pizza which sells and delivers ready made says it's too early to tell.

"When school session is in, and the community settles in sales are better," Samuelson said. "But people are going to visit relatives, going to the lake, and a lot of teachers at the high school and SMSU don't live in town."

However, Dave Knotz, manager of Domino's Pizza said there is a definite jump in business. "Especially I'd say late nights," he said. "Thursday, that's college fun night in town."

Knotz said Domino's is pretty stable with low turnover, but it has to hire more staff during the school year as student employees have to cut down on their hours.

Pizza Hut is within a convenient walk from the SMSU campus, and has a lot of room for dine-in customers, as well as delivering. Manager Jesse Klatt said he's definitely seen a jump in business with many new customers.

"Sales do pick up," Klatt said. "I've hired five people in the last month or so - three drivers, a cook and a server."

At MacDonald's management is not allowed to discuss sales figures, but one manager Anna Sisombat did comment that it gets very busy after school starts.

Returning students often need furniture, which is generally too much trouble to bring from home.

"We see a lot of them coming through looking for mattresses, futons," said Jeff Bragg, manager of Slumberland furniture outlet.

Bragg said the store tries to keep up with these items on a seasonal basis and said he thought the students are good for the area and good for the town.

"Our used consignment department empties out," said Alan Schuch, manager of Larson's Home Furnishings. "Otherwise, nothing too crazy. Sofas from $399 to $499 go well."

Though used furniture sells well, used clothing does not appear to.

"We're just starting to get a rush of students coming into the store," said Molly Kimball, a job coach at Advanced Opportunities which runs "Wear it's At," a gently-used clothing store. "We didn't have any luck seeing students come in. We've done a lot of advertising in the past year though, and maybe word is getting out."

Electronics is one thing that's almost guaranteed to sell, at both the high and low end.

Alex Smieja, manager of Radio Shack said business picks up and the need for employees does as well, as student employees either quit or have to cut back on their hours when school starts.

Radio Shack sales associate Hannah Kiges is a student at SMSU and knows first-hand what students need when they move in.

"Co-ax cables, chargers, headphones, anything that breaks easily," Kiges said.

According to Kenny Thompson, manager of Verizon Wireless World, students tend to go for the more expensive phones rather than the cheaper no-frills models.

"Usually we get a rush of students coming into the store," Thompson said. "Mostly looking for smart phones."

And, of course, students have personal grooming needs like anyone else.

Danielle French manager of Great Clips, said business picks up quite a bit after the start of school.

Owner Milly Ljubisavljevic, cutting hair in the corner, chimed in, "Boy does it ever take off!"



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