While Blacksburg is mainly devoid of students in the summer, local businesses including a few of Virginia Tech’s own retail outlets, suffer from fewer customers. However, the three weeks of July scheduled for new student orientation is a widely welcomed change of pace during those slow summer breaks.
According to Jessica Johns, Assistant Director of the New Students and Families Program, this year’s orientation in particular yielded over 14,000 visitors to the Blacksburg area over the sessions.
Although Johns emphasizes that the focus of orientation is to acclimate new students and families to their new and large university, the sudden influx of people is undoubtedly helpful to consumerism in local Blacksburg, and Johns recognizes the “very strong relationship” between the university and the town of Blacksburg.
“They kind of go hand in hand,” Johns said. “When you think about Virginia Tech as an institution, you think about Blacksburg.”
As business around Blacksburg received a boost in clientele this past July, Tech’s very own Squires Food Court, which houses Au Bon Pain, welcomed the spur in summer operations.
“Our business was up. I’d say 75 percent versus the rest of the summer,” said Donna Rogers, Assistant Manager for Squires Food Court, who added that orientation not only brought in relatively heavy-paced traffic, but a fresh customer base that the Squires team reveled in.
“It was nice to have it busy in here and to meet all the new parents and students that came through,” Rogers said. “They were all really nice people.”
Dave Wilson, Associate Director for the University Bookstore located on-campus, also said that even though the bookstore kept busy with demand from summer classes, orientation usually brought “the three busiest weeks during the summer.”
While it still wasn’t as busy as when classes start, according to Wilson, bookstore employees had to make themselves readily available to assist with the confusion accompanied by newcomers’ orientation.
“(Orientation) brings a whole new group of students and families into town,” Wilson said. “We’re always pretty involved with that. We’re here to answer any questions that the students or families have related to textbooks, computers, or anything else.”
As businesses experience a sluggish August, they’re all preparing for what’s to come— the craziness of back to school Hokies returning for the fall.