May 042005
Authors: Lila Hickey

With a significant percentage of students leaving town for the summer, some may wonder how the drop in population affects city businesses.

After all, despite record enrollment this year – nearly 25,400 students – only about 7,000 students stayed last summer to take classes.

The summer economy

Business owners and realtors said summer does not bring a decrease in sales. If anything, in fact, business increases because of tourism and summer-specific businesses.

"(Sales) pretty much stay the same because there's a lot of tourists," said Tracy Thornton, a salesclerk at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, 172 N. College Ave.

For Lee Swanson, owner of Ben and Jerry's, 1 Old Town Square, business increases drastically.

"There's no dent (in business)," he said. "It increases big time."

Swanson said his business flourishes partially because of increased demand for ice cream during warm summer months.

"Ice cream is a warm-weather item," he said. "That's our real only season, is the summer. There's enough students up here even in the summer."

But Swanson also believes his Old Town location is important to business. Chris Johnson, a manager at Austin's American Grill, 100 W. Mountain Ave. in Old Town, agreed.

"We definitely see an increase in business in the summer," Johnson said. "Everybody's flooding to Old Town and doing a lot of window shopping."

Even outside of Old Town, businesses do not report significant sale decreases during the summer months.

"We usually have a lot of students come in (in the school year), but we have a lot of regulars, too," said Kelly Riscoe, an employee at Big City Burrito, 510 S. College Ave. "It usually balances out."

Filling the gap

For other businesses, a slightly older crowd quickly fills the gap left by college students: people in their late 20s looking for a place to go out, free of their younger brethren.

Chuck Jones, co-owner of Mystiq/Suite 152, 23 Old Town Square, said his nightclub experiences a small dip in numbers – about 15 percent – during the two weeks after graduation, but it recovers when older Fort Collins residents start going out during the summer evenings.

"The older ones come out," Jones said. "They want to go out themselves, also."

Fewer jobs available in summer?

But whether this increased business results in more jobs available to students in town for the summer varies from business-to-business.

Riscoe said Big City Burrito does not usually hire extra help during the summer, but at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, the influx of tourists makes extra help important.

"We usually hire at least one more person," Thornton said.

Janeen Sivon, assistant director for student employment at Student Financial Services, said it is difficult to assess the number of jobs available from school year to summer.

"It's fluid," she said of the university's student job listing. "It changes from minute-to-minute. We have no way of comparing summer to fall to winter."

But Sivon said some students have told her they have more trouble finding jobs during the summer.

Buffi Elliott, an account executive at Apple One Employment Services, 1120 S. College Ave., said fewer jobs tend to be available in summer months, because out-of-school students are flooding the job market.

"There are fewer open positions in Fort Collins and Greeley," she said of the summer months.

Lew Wymisner, assistant director of Larimer County Workforce, 200 W. Oak St., said the city is experiencing a labor surplus – more workers than jobs – meaning students looking for summer jobs are competing with nonstudents hoping to increase their family incomes.

"Summer people are going to be facing competition from people they wouldn't normally be competing with," Wymisner said. "There are more people out there looking for employment."

Wymisner said this heavy competition means students looking for work should treat applications and interviews professionally, even if the job is not a "career track" opportunity.

"If they happen to be in the store in shorts and flip-flops, that may not be the best time to ask for an application because they might be being screened and not even now it," Wymisner said.

Sivon said there is a surge in the number of employers looking for workers during the spring, and in the number of students seeking jobs during the summer. But the two don't always coincide.

"There's always a little surge in the spring," she said. "(But) employers are looking back in March and April, whereas the students are looking after finals week. We sort of have a mismatch."

Elliott said the trend seems to be changing this year, and the job market is improving.

When students return

Other businesses say they do not notice the void college students create when they leave town at the beginning of summer, but they definitely notice when students return.

"When they come back, it's huge. It's just out of control," said Mike Bennett, a salesclerk at Lee's Cyclery, 202 W. Laurel St.

Bev Perina, owner of Armadillo Property Management, 521 N. Taft Hill Road, said she sees an increasing demand for housing during the summer, especially between June and July when students begin searching for housing for the coming year.

"It usually increases a lot for us (in June and July) because people are looking for houses at that time," she said.

Humane society also effected

While changes in businesses are expected during the summer, the Larimer Humane Society seems an unlikely candidate for seasonal change.

The humane society does not keep specific statistics about the people who surrender animals to the shelter, said Cary Rentola, the marketing and community events manager for the society, but students often surrender animals when they move away from Fort Collins or leave town for the summer.

"We do see animals surrendered because a college student is moving to a new home and they can't have pets or a roommate is allergic," Rentola said. "It is something we see."

Rentola encourages college students not to adopt pets because of potential changes in housing or decisions to move after school. Instead, she recommends that students help out at the shelter to get their "fur fix." She said that after training volunteers, the shelter allows them to take as much as six months off and still return to the same position, a rule that helps college students keep their place.

"They can actually take a six-month break from our volunteer program and then return without starting over," she said.

Interested students can look up the shelter online at or call 226-3647, ext. 324

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