Hillsdale’s local businesses saw a significant influx of customers during the commencement weekend from July 17 – 19, business owners said.
After the college rescheduled the May 2020 commencement to July 18 due to the coronavirus outbreak, many Hillsdale business owners said they did not have the level of customers they would on a normal commencement weekend. However, many said their shops or restaurants were much fuller than they had been in a long time after Michigan’s shutdown.
“We were extremely busy this past weekend. I would say we were at the same level as pre-COVID,” Finish Line Family Restaurant Owner Lisa Slade said. “There were a lot of people in town, and they came out. We were only operating at half-capacity, as mandated by the state, but most people were very patient and waited outside and we served a lot of people.”
Hillsdale’s food industry saw the greatest increase of business over the weekend, with Hunt Club, The Local Eatery, and Handmade seeing high levels of foot traffic, especially on Saturday afternoon.
“We definitely had an increase in business this weekend with all the extra family members in town,” Handmade Owner Derek Spiteri said.
Spiteri suggested that though numbers weren’t quite as high as they’d typically be during a May commencement weekend, he believes this was a result of the strict limitations on commencement attendance which the college enforced to maintain social distancing. He also noted the lack of underclassmen, who he said typically make the most of the last week of school by eating out around town.
“The crowd of people was on the smaller side that what I’ve seen before, but it was a busy weekend for us, especially compared with us being shut down for COVID. It was definitely a good weekend for business,” Spiteri said.
As many students’ families were only in town on Saturday, Hunt Club manager Terry White said Saturday was definitely busier than usual, but Sunday was not as much.
“It was busier than a normal Sunday, but you know we haven’t had a real ‘normal’ Sunday in a while, with COVID,” White added.
Coffee shops Checker Records, Rough Draft, and Jilly Beans’ staff said they also enjoyed the increased volume of customers.
By noon on Saturday, Jessica Fawley, manager of Rough Draft, said she already noticed a difference.
“Anyone who’s been here knows we’ve been significantly busier already,” Fawley said. “Any business we appreciate. We always appreciate having more business.”
Local retailers saw less of an increase than food businesses, but still more customers than they said they have had in many weeks.
The Blossom Shop owner Heather Webster said typically, her florals business gets a lot of foot traffic during the commencement weekend, and the Hunt Club next door is “always packed.” This year, Webster said she was a little busier, but not as much as in the past.
“We’ve picked up a bit since the state reopened, but we’re definitely not back to normal levels,” Webster said.
Slade said since reopening, customers have been “more skittish” about dining in. To-go orders have remained a significant player in Finish Line’s bottom line. She said this past weekend was definitely good for the restaurant.
“Between the two, we’re kind of about where we should be this time of year. It’s just kind of different, which is ok. However people want to do it, if they still enjoy our food, we’re grateful,” Slade said.