Businesses come out of hibernation

By Erin Renzas

With temperatures slowly rising and reaching 48 degrees, businesses and local facilities that closed for the winter are opening their doors for the warmer months.

Jarling’s Custard Cup, 309 W. Kirby Ave., reopened its doors to enthusiastic customers, said Store Manager Angie Horath. Late fall and winter drastically diminishes the demand for custard, she added.

“We have had several people come in and tell us how much they looked forward to the store opening,” Horath said. “They get a little emotional.”

Closed since late November, longtime customers and employees have been eager for the specialty ice cream shop to reopen.

“We tried to stay open one winter, and no one came in,” Horath said. “I guess we close because we don’t make enough profit to make it worth being open.”

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Several businesses throughout Champaign-Urbana and nearby areas, including lawn and garden services and recreational parks, close for the winter months when business slows, said Chris Rudin, high tech director for the local Economic Development Corporation.

“During these colder months, lawn services, outdoor recreation centers, and other companies can’t offer their services or don’t have enough demand,” said Rudin.

Yet, because so much of local business depends on University students, fewer businesses close in Champaign-Urbana than in a typical community of its size.

Rudin said Champaign experiences a reversal of the closure of seasonal businesses, with many businesses needing to stay open November through February to capitalize on student-based profits.

“Much of Champaign-Urbana’s economy comes from the student population and businesses, even those that may be more seasonal, cannot shut down for the months that school is in session,” Rudin said.

Five to seven years ago, Campustown virtually shut down during summer months, with several stores reducing store hours or closing until late in the summer due to a lack of student consumers, Rudin said. He added that in recent years, larger student populations during the summer and better business plans – which tolerate the lull in revenue – have allowed these businesses to maintain their regular hours.

Some businesses, such as Dairy Queen, 703 S. Neil St., are open year-round.

“During the summer, we see more customers, but we see a ton of students stop in all year,” Store Manager Greg Epley said. He added that the location of the store and their affiliation with a sandwich shop draws consumers into the ice cream shop, despite the colder weather.

But companies with a larger non-student population, such as Jarling’s Custard Cup, do not rely as much on student foot traffic for revenue.

“The people that come in are split right down the middle – half students, half not – but the local support is great,” Horath said.

Laura Mravic and Kathy Nieves, both sophomores in LAS, sat inside Jarling’s on March 4 beneath a bold sign boasting: “Welcome back! Spring is on the way.”

“I like the idea that this place is only open for the spring – it reminds me of warm weather,” Mravic said.