While Penn students were visiting their families, working on Wall Street or absconding in the Mediterranean, the local businesses they frequent found ways to adapt.
Penn’s bar scene sees a dip in student customers during the summer, but also finds a resurgence in local visitors while school is out of session.
Smokey Joe's manager and 2009 College graduate Paul Ryan said he finds creative ways to keep business coming during the summer break.
“During the summer it’s definitely slower,” Ryan said, “[but] we get a lot more neighborhood people willing to hang out.”
In order to keep people coming, Ryan promotes the bar constantly on social media, and signs Smokey Joe's up for events like an upcoming Pokémon Go bar crawl. Still, it would seem nothing can totally replace the presence of the over 20,000 Penn students and staff on campus during the academic year.
“We only need one bartender at night during the summer, whereas during the school year we’ll have three or four. But that’s also the benefit of having a lot of Penn students as staff — most of them are gone anyway.”
The manager of Axis Pizza, who asked for his name not to be used, said in many ways, running a restaurant around a university campus poses a unique set of challenges.
“It’s more like a seasonal store,” he explained. “Out of the year, you can actually have four and half, maybe five months where it’s slow. It’s not just the summer, it’s all the breaks.”
Axis, which is located on 36th Street between Chestnut and Market streets, sees many student customers from Kings Court English House, Hill and New College House. But as the freshman from those dorms move on to new housing, businesses like Axis find themselves starting fresh with a new customer base each school year.
“Kids will move and think that we don’t deliver over there, so we always have to find new customers," he said.
At least one local venue does seem to thrive during the summer. “We’re busier during the warm months,” said Leah Muñoz of Lil Pop Shop on 44th and Spruce streets. The popsicle-centered dessert shop, which opened in 2012, sees more customers in summer and spring, and takes advantage of festivals in Philadelphia to reach new visitors. Their mobile truck helps as well.
“We’re doing Made In America this weekend, and we have a popsicle truck that goes to different events,” she said.
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