By Allie Maupin
Carrboro Commons Writer
Come July, Chapel Hill may look like a ghost town, but just down the road in Carrboro local businesses say their sales remain relatively strong throughout the summer.
In the summer months, the student population of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area shrinks from more than 27,000 to about 6,000.
While Chapel Hill businesses are significantly affected by the summer migration of students, local business in Carrboro remains mostly unaffected.
“We expect summer to be a great time for us,” said Kevin Murach, a Fleet Feet employee and UNC-CH student who plans on remaining in the area this summer. “The lack of students around really should not be much of an issue for us.”
Jenny McMillan, owner of Nested, a gift shop located on East Main Street, said her business comes in cycles but that summer is not particularly a slow period.
“I don’t have a huge student customer base,” McMillan said. “I think it’s probably like that for a lot of stores in Carrboro.”
Many businesses cited Carrboro’s settled, family-focused residents as a reason sales do not dip.
“I think more people permanently live around downtown Carrboro than in Chapel Hill,” said Murach. “Summer is not a down time because most our regular customers are still here.”
McMillan also attributes the seasonal differences in the two towns to the types of business each one attracts.
“Franklin Street is totally student-oriented,” she said. “There is not much to buy there besides cheap food and blue T-shirts.”
Hillary Vandewart, a UNC-CH student who spent last summer in Carrboro, agreed that downtown Carrboro has more to offer in the summer.
“Last summer Franklin Street was pretty dead, but Carrboro still had the same feel it did during the school year,” McMillan said.
However, Carrboro business do benefit from UNC-Chapel Hill students.
Margret Mercer, an employee of Shades of Blue in Carr Mill Mall, said much of their sales in the beginning of summer are student- based.
“A lot of families are in town for graduation,” Mercer said. “We get plenty of parents and grandparents in here.”
Summer’s warm weather also plays a part in keeping up commerce in Carrboro.
“People are definitely more active in the summer, and that translates into a higher demand for the type of products we sell here at Fleet Feet,” Murach said. “Warm weather is usually a good sign for us.”
McMillan has seen a similar trend at Nested.
“In August, more people are walking around town, exploring what is there,” she said. “This has to do with the weather, as well as many new folks coming to town for reasons connected to the university.”
As Vandewart prepares for another summer in the area, she said she is planning to spend time and money in Carrboro.
“I’m sure that I’ll be downtown a lot this summer,” said Vandewart. “There I can eat, shop and people watch — three of my favorite summer activities.”