Uptown Normal shops and restaurants are hoping for increased business from Illinois State University students that returned to campus for the fall semester.
These local businesses in Bloomington-Normal have experienced significant hardships due to COVID-19.
The lack of students over the summer decreased business in Uptown Normal. Students coming back to campus brings feelings of excitement for these businesses, but also brings some worry over the possibility of spreading COVID-19.
“For business, it’s very good. With everyone returning, we were wondering if COVID-19 cases would spike because half of my customer base are older people,” manager of Coffeehouse and Deli and owner of Butter Twice and Again Yvonne Wilson said.
“It’s always exciting to have the students back. Business grows tremendously and it helps out the whole street and it’s more alive in Uptown right now. So it is exciting, but we will see what happens.”
Wilson has worked at Coffeehouse and Deli for the past 10 years and also balances owning the new shop Butter Twice and Again – a vintage contemporary “twice-loved” clothing and accessory shop.
“We had seen a tremendous increase in customers and sales since April, and the summer didn’t even slow down. We were actually very lucky because we do lose the students,” Wilson said.
“I know it does hurt the businesses on the strip on Beaufort Street and North Street, but Coffeehouse has been around for 25 years. Thankfully, we do have a pretty big following.”
Wilson said that once students moved in, the Coffeehouse has been through the roof busy.
“Over the summer, I feel like there were not as many people, but there were a lot more regulars and loyal customers who just live around the area,” senior fashion merchandise student and employee at Butter Twice and Again Emma Gillis said.
“Ever since Welcome Week started and school started, it has been crazy in here. There’s so many new students and new faces in here.”
Gillis went on to say that while she’s excited for everyone to return to campus, it’s a bit nerve-racking knowing the risks of COVID-19 spreading through the area – potentially forcing people to isolate at home.
Other small businesses in Uptown Normal have had to adapt and create solutions for safety concerns and for the lack of business due to the pandemic.
“[Business] is slow, we only do carry out and do not have dining in. Now when the students come back, it picks up a little bit,” Sichuan Chinese Restaurant and Hot-Pot employee Josephine Choo said.
Choo said Sichuan Chinese Restaurant and Hot-Pot does not have future plans of reopening their indoor dining since its closure in May 2020 until further notice.
Tattoo artist Shawna McGuire has worked at Psychopathic Ink Tattoos and Piercings in Uptown Normal for the past 17 years.
“It’s pretty sporadic. They come and go throughout the day,” McGuire said. “[During the summer] it was much slower. There wasn’t a lot of students, so that was rough. I had to do a lot more advertising to draw in everybody just to keep it going.”
McGuire also said that her environment at the shop is clean and safe for tattooing and piercings for each client.
As students and faculty members become more acquainted with being back at school, Uptown Normal businesses will continue to welcome students to their businesses in the hopes of a safe semester.