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The annual exodus of college students and its impact on local businesses in Boston (The Terrier)

by Wesley Batson
June 28, 2022

A peaceful melody drifts in the background of the hustle and bustle of a busy cafe. Soups, salads, and smoothies slide onto the tables of a few focused students as they type away on their laptops. Across the street, the campus of Boston University stands dormant, lacking the presence of students and professors alike. Even the usually crowded Commonwealth Avenue seems almost sleepy under the beating June sun. 

According to a recent study done by The Boston Globe, up to 20 percent of Boston’s population consists of students. The stark metric highlights a significant question. 

Local joints serve a particular service to students at Boston University. Providing not only satiation to their hunger, but a good study spot to finish that last paper.

But what happens to these scholarly hotspots when students make their annual exodus from campus at the end of the school year?

“They (students) go back home or on vacation and all that, so usually it’s like, we get less business and slow down during the summer,” says Danni, the manager at the Life Alive cafe on Commonwealth Avenue, a popular spot for students to grab a bite and study. “Also, my front house team members (are) mostly college kids, so we need to address that shortage of workers here during the summer.” 

Life Alive is just one of many businesses within the vicinity of student life. Wahlburgers is another student favorite restaurant affected by the withdrawal of the students during the summer.

 “About 20 percent of our servers at the front of the house are college students and of that, about 50% of them leave for the summer.” Said Seth Fairmont, the general manager at Wahlburgers. “Were affected much more by what’s happening at Fenway than the campuses… but I can definitely see it impacting those within a quarter-mile of the campus.” 

However, there may be more pros than cons to being close to a student hub. While these businesses have to adapt their practices around students’ absence, many still see a net benefit to their proximity to campus. 

“You know it’s a balance; less business, less workers.” said Danni. Although these businesses are affected by the shift in their demographics, they still see the silver lining.