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The Daily Tar Heel

Student Break Won't Hurt Local Business

But owner John Woodard said the loss of student business during Winter Break doesn't necessarily deal a crippling blow to his establishment.

Robert Humphreys, executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Commission, said when students depart for the break, the accompanying drop in student business on Franklin Street is offset by local residents.

Humphreys added that the drop in student population that occurs during the summer is made up largely through the influx of tourists to the area. "The monetary effect is certainly there, but not as great as it could be," he said.

But Woodard has estimated a 25 percent to 35 percent drop in business at Sutton's when regular classes are not in session.

Locke Page, general manager of Woody's Tar Heel Tavern, concurred. "It's slow, but a lot of locals come out," he said.

Clint Webb, assistant manager of Wherehouse Music, said the loss of sales is much more drastic during the winter break than it is during the summer. "Our summer business is mainly local high school, middle and elementary school kids," Webb said. "They're all out of school then."

Woodard added that business at Sutton's drops much lower in winter than in summer. He pointed to summer classes, summer camps and tourism that help to off-set the absence of students. "Quite a few people come to see Chapel Hill."

But Page said Woody's gets a large lunch and early dinner crowd during the holidays, consisting mainly of residents.

Humphreys said this holiday influx of local residents to downtown is largely a result of more available parking spaces, vacated by departed students.

"We see an awful lot of community residents that we don't see at other times of the year," he said.

Humphreys also said summer tourism has picked up a lot in the last 25 years, marking a big leap from the days when Franklin Street businesses would shut down for the season. "It's amazing how many programs (the University) has to bring people to town."

But the loss of business does not necessarily mean the loss of staff.

Wherehouse and Woody's both said they hire replacement staff to deal with the loss of student employees. "The staff size stays pretty much the same," Page said.

Woodard said he expects this year to be like every other, and he is not worried about any detrimental impacts the winter break might bring.

"The store's been here since 1923, so we must be doing something right."

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