Businesses in college towns struggling to stay afloat as students switch to online learning

Coronavirus

BEREA, Ohio (WJW) — Many college town businesses are trying to survive as COVID-19 cases force some classes online. 

In Berea, business rely in part on Baldwin Wallace University students to walk through their doors. Store owners say they’re anxious about this winter as the pandemic continues to take a toll. 

“Probably more scared to come out, I know a lot of them are doing remote learning so maybe that deters them from getting out more often,” said Danielle McCrae, co-owner of The Shoppe.

Inside The Shoppe on Front Street, mother and daughter duo Kimberly and Danielle McCrae say they can’t afford to shut down again. 

The store that sells home décor, clothing, candles, cards and other goods closed for more than two months earlier this year. 

“This business has been here almost 50 years. We pour our heart and soul and it is scary we don’t know what is going to happen,” said Kimberly McCrae. 

As winter inches closer and Ohio’s COVID-19 cases continue to surge, McCrae says she’s worried about closing up shop again. 

“Will we all survive another shut down? No, it’s simple as that,” she said. 

The Shoppe said they have lost 20 percent in revenue, although when Danielle launched a new online website during the shutdown another problem began, long shipping delays on best-selling products. 

“Normally we’d be able to get things within a couple weeks and we’re waiting months and months on end,” she said. 

Across town, active businesses membership in the Berea Chamber of Commerce remains higher than before. 

“The bars aren’t packed on weekend nights with college kids,” said Megan Baechle, the Executive Director of the Berea Chamber of Commerce. “The restaurants aren’t packed like they normally would be. Our restaurants and retail have certainly struggled the most.” 

Baechle said around 70 businesses received COVID-19 relief grant funding through the city of Berea. She is working to creatively feature local businesses online and through social media in order to help keep doors open.

“Luckily, Berea has been pretty resilient and we’ve only seen a small number of actual closures due to COVID so far,” she said. 

Random surveillance COVID-19 testing occurs every week, according to a Baldwin Wallace University spokesperson. A total of 49 positive cases are reported on the university’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The university’s current calendar plan calls for students to learn remotely following Thanksgiving through the end of the semester. 

Despite the uncertainty of university students’ future sales, Kimberly said she’s optimistic things will work out with continued support from the community.

“We’ll be okay, a lot of faith, we’ll be okay.” 

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