University-based businesses prepare for winter break

While students and faculty alike prepare to take a four-week hiatus from the stresses and rigors of university life and schoolwork, businesses near campus are bracing for a month-long business hit as their main customers head home.

While local Tucsonans shop at stores by the University of Arizona, the majority of the customers at these businesses are students from the college.

The businesses that usually take the biggest hit are located within walking distance of the university’s campus on Fourth Avenue and University Boulevard. As a result of its proximity, these two streets have not only become a popular place for students to shop, but have become a popular social destination for students at the University of Arizona.

“The reason that I shop on University Boulevard is because it’s within walking distance,” said Zoe Webman, a freshman at the UA.

Webman, like the majority of freshmen who live on-campus, does not have a car. While this limits her possible destinations to spend her free time, these streets are appealing because, “We don’t have to find transportation,” Webman said.

Another draw to these streets is a mix between unique shops and corporate chains specifically designed to target students.

“I love shopping at Urban Outfitters, but I also like the little shops next to it,” said Erin Shanahan, a freshman at the UA.

Molly Williamson, a sophomore at the UA, believes that students are targeted as the main customers of businesses close to campus. This makes it an environment specifically designed for college students.

“I really like it because of the environment…there is a lot of live music,” Williamson said. “Also, the clothing at these stores appeal to our age group as opposed to older people. The bars on university and fourth, a lot of students like to go there.”

Shanahan agrees with this assumption, saying, “Tucson is a college town and the shopping is right next to the university. As a result, most of the clothes appeal to younger people.”

Many of the businesses on these streets do not attempt to hide their intention of targeting college students. To them, the proximity of their businesses to campus requires them to sell products that appeal to the college students.

However, if the stores target business from college students, they have to anticipate business hits during the time periods when students are not in town.

Nazari Chappotin, a manager at Campus Candy, which is located right on University Boulevard, said, “We always anticipate lower hours and lower profits during the winter. Since we know this, we have more events going on during the school year as opposed to during extra time.”

Amy Jesionowski, who is the owner of Collette, a clothing store that recently opened on University Boulevard, has yet to experience a winter break. However, she heard from other shop-owners that, “Winter break is worse for sales. I assume business will go way down.”

Characterized by many businesses as “extra time,” the upcoming winter break has forced a lot of businesses to take preventative measures to make sure they cut profit losses during the absence of university students.

“We have it in our business plan that we aren’t going to make money during extra time,” Chappotin said. “That means we don’t expect to make money during the winter and summer.”

Terra Schacht, the owner of The Cereal Boxx, which is located right off University Boulevard, has accepted the fact that her business will lose money over the break. She estimates that her business will experience a 65 percent decrease in profits over winter break alone.

“There is nothing you can do to combat 30,000 people leaving town just like that,” Schacht said. “The only thing you can really do is bulk sales up during the school months. We usually cut costs by closing for ten days during winter break.”

However, for many stores, acceptance is not a viable business plan. These stores become more creative with ways of making sure they don’t lose money during extra time.

“While there may be less shoppers out during holiday season, they tend to be shoppers who are purchasing and our numbers have been better then during the other times of the year,” said Gaby Miller, the owner of Cry Baby Couture, located on University Boulevard.

“We try to be as a prepared as possible with the right kind of inventory that is selling or that will be likely to sell with the type of customer that will be coming through,” Miller said.

Meanwhile, other stores do not need to make any changes to business models, as their inventory appeals to more than just college students.

Shane Barela, the owner of The Scented Leaf on University Boulevard, sells both tea and perfumes in his store. The tea appeals to students, while the perfumes appeal to older people.

“In terms of tea, students are my main customers,” Barela said. “For perfumes and oils, it’s people between the ages of 25-40. I’d say 70 percent women and 30 percent men.”

This allows Barela to not lose any business during “extra time.”

In his opinion, Barela believes that, “Over winter break, college kids go away and non-students enjoy the parking.”

However, Barela believes there might be another reason for the students’ small impact on his store. “College kids are laggers in terms of business,” Barela said. “They are word of mouth buyers, meaning they buy stuff based off what other people say is good.”

Despite this idea that students are “trend” consumers, they still realize the impact that they have on the local economy. They, like owners, anticipate a drop in sales during winter break.

Williamson believes that stores can survive the month-long hiatus, but they need to change their clientele in order to continue to make profits.

“I know the residence halls close over break, so the Tucson communities have to be the ones responsible for keeping those stores in tact,” Williamson said.

And if stores are genuinely suffering, they can remember that is only a temporary problem.

Webman put it best, saying, “Their business will take a hit, but it will only be for a month.”

Note: This assignment was completed for my Journalism 205: Reporting the News class.

Proposed law limiting minidorms leads to uncertainty in student living

A proposed law banning minidorms in residential Tucson areas has left students searching for housing alternatives.

Minidorms are usually defined as houses occupied by five or more unrelated people and are a common destination for students. The houses are a way for large groups of students to continue living together past their years in on-campus dormitories.

“Minidorms appeal to many students because they offer a neighborhood environment and the social interaction provided by a community of other students,” said Steffanie Kramer, the leasing and marketing manger at NorthPointe Apartments.

It is estimated that 85 percent of students at the University of Arizona, or up to 33,000 students, live off-campus, according to Iran Andrade, an employee for the University of Arizona Off Campus Housing Services.

Of these 30,000 students, about half live in houses, according to Andrade.

Andrade believes that students live in minidorms because “they like the fact that they get to live with more friends. A lot of people are not from Arizona, so it’s for comfort purposes.”

Jake Landsiedel, a UA freshman who was planning on living off-campus the rest of his time at the UA, believes that the proposed law would change his future living plans.

“If that law comes into effect, it would probably force me to move into an apartment when I would have probably lived in one of those houses,” Landsiedel said.

Steffanie Kramer agrees that it would likely cause an increase in student occupancy at apartment complexes.

“Students will still want to be close to campus and close to other students, so big apartment rental complexes will be the alternative,” she said.

Critics of the proposed law believe that there are two main targets for the proposed law: illegal immigrants and students.

It is believed that students living in minidorms are targeted because they are more likely to be prone to noise violations. However, Iran Andrade believes that this should not be a basis for a new citywide law.

“The main concern is irrelevant,” Andrade said. “Renters need to know the codes.” Cherisse Patnode, a UA freshman, feels targeted by the proposed law.

“Students are not the only ones who make noise,” Patnode said. “There are plenty of other people over the age of 30 that are making noise and having parties too.”

“It’s stupid that they would make this rule because of noise or something,” said Jake Landsiedel in agreement. “It isn’t only students in houses that are loud.”

There are plenty of alternatives to housing besides large group housing. Andrade believes apartments, duplexes, studios, guest homes and shared homes are the popular alternatives to living in houses.

“It’s all a matter of personal preference,” Andrade said. “In an apartment, you have preset luxuries. However, families like the comfort of their kids living in larger groups.”

Note: This assignment was completed in my Journalism 205: Reporting the News class.

Bike theft declining at the University of Arizona

Bike theft on the campus of the University of Arizona is down from the previous two years, according to police officials.

Joe Bermudez, a crime prevention officer who has worked for the University of

Arizona Police Department, expects bike theft, which experienced a 9 percent decrease in last year, to even out in the next couple years.

According to Bermudez, there are between 11,000 and 12,000 bikers on campus, but thieves go after, “The easiest and quickest bikes to steal.”

Over the past six years, the number of bike thefts has fluctuated, reaching a high of 423 reported bike thefts in 2009 and a reported low of 234 in 2007. There have already been a reported 182 bike thefts in 2011, which is on pace for 218 thefts, a 43 percent decrease from last year, and the lowest total in seven years.

In recent years, the University of Arizona has taken many steps to educate students on bike theft and has added a bike valet to park and protect students’ bikes.

The valet, which began at the beginning of the 2010-to-2011 school year and is free, parks approximately 100 bikes a day, said Kevin Conley, an employee for the bike valet.

“Everyone I know has had something done to their bike,” Conley said. “However, no bikes have ever been stolen from this service.”

The success of the bike valet, which is located in front of the Nugent Building on the university’s campus, has led the university to consider opening another one outside of the Eller College of Management.

However, there are other ways to lower the risk of bike theft.

“If you’re going to have a bike on campus, make sure it’s no more than $200,” Bermudez said. “We recommend the U-Lock, but layer these locks. Park it where there is foot traffic and park it in a different spot every day, even if you aren’t using it.”

The UA also recommends that students register bicycles with the university, where they are entered into an online database. If a bike is stolen, the owner can be contacted if it is found, or if the thief attempts to sell it.

While Bermudez admits that there is no way to guarantee a bike not being stolen, he feels that it is a matter of knowledge and education to aid prevention.

Note: This assignment was completed for my Journalism 205: Reporting the News class.

Smoking is not on the rise, but tobacco use is still dangerous

Contrary to belief, tobacco is the new gateway drug, according to a University of Arizona prevention specialist.

“Tobacco is the new gateway drug, not marijuana,” said Lynn Reyes, who works for Campus Health at the UA.

According to Reyes, this is a major problem, considering cigarettes are becoming easier and easier to get a hold of.

“If someone wants to smoke, they’re going to get cigarettes,” she said. “They don’t have to sneak into a Circle K.”

Meanwhile at the University of Arizona, smoking is not on the rise. A 2011 survey of all UA students showed that the percentage of students who had smoked at least one cigarette within the previous 30 days rose to 22.1 percent from 21.7 percent in 2010.

According to Reyes, the issue is not the number of smokers, however, but rather the idea that tobacco use leads to the use of other, more dangerous drugs, like marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

Dave Wilen, a sophomore creative writing major, agrees with the assumption that tobacco is the new gateway drug.

“People smoke tobacco because it doesn’t alter your mind, so nobody really looks at it as a drug,” Wilen said. “However, it has a become a new gateway drug because marijuana isn’t everyone’s thing.”

Wilen takes steps to carefully maintain an addiction to cigarettes, like rolling his own cigarettes.

“When you consciously roll them, you pay attention to what you’re consuming,” Wilen said.

According to a 2005 study done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than two thirds of cocaine and opiate users smoked between 20 and 40 cigarettes on a daily basis. In the same study, 100 percent of cocaine users and 91.2 percent of opiate users admitted to smoking at least five cigarettes per day.

“I love smoking weed, but I smoke cigarettes to pass the time as a social thing,” said one UA freshman.

“I don’t believe tobacco is a gateway drug, but I do believe that people who smoke cigarettes are more likely to do other things,” added another UA student.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco still remains the single-largest preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the United States. Coupled with the idea that it leads to use of other drugs, it may be the most dangerous substance in the world today.

Note: This assignment was completed in my Journalism 205: Reporting the News class.