In Sept. of last year, local businesses suffered losses as a result of the off-campus travel restrictions. As of Tuesday, April 27, President Elizabeth Bradley announced in an email to the student body that students are permitted to dine outdoors at Arlington restaurants with their pods. With students now allowed to travel into Arlington, these businesses are getting a taste of the post-pandemic boom, as the once vital Vassar student patronage returns.
Most businesses said the renewed support has been a boon to their finances, and has offset some of the losses they incurred when students were unable to leave campus. For the owners of these establishments, the influx of business from students has meant rent paid and food on the table, and signals some relief from the financial hardship of the past year. Rajesh Seghal, owner of Dollar Yard, recounted: “I have never experienced such hardships as from February 2020 to March 2021, because my business depends 85% on Vassar students. We carry items which are required by students.” He continued, “I am behind [on] my rent and continue to request my landlord, Vassar College, to look into my hardships.” (Vassar owns buildings around Arlington, one of them being Seghal’s Dollar Yard.)
During the pandemic, some, though not all, of this hardship was mitigated by on-campus vending. Tanner Townsend, owner of The Crafted Kup, recalled the significant impact of COVID-19 on both the Arlington and Vassar communities: “In one way or another, every business had to adapt to make it through the past year, and The Crafted Kup is no different. We were very thankful to Vassar for allowing us to be on campus to serve the students during the past two semesters, and that greatly contributed to our ability to successfully weather the storm.”
Darren Chan at Chan’s Peking Village highlighted the increased business, with some caveats: “Chan’s Peking has definitely seen an increase in business as students are allowed to leave off campus and visit local business establishments. If we were open for dine-in it would be much better, but due to most of our staff still not feeling safe we’re only doing take out.”
Beyond financial concerns, businesses are enjoying a new pulse provided by Vassar students, one they’ve missed from pre-pandemic times. Chef Ira Lee at Twisted Soul explained: “Since Vassar students are allowed to come, the food traffic is busier at Twisted Soul. It seems that more students are willing to come to the restaurant than order delivery.”
Townsend agreed with this sentiment: “The opening of campus and the return of the students has brought much needed life, energy, and cash flow into the Arlington District. Financials aside, having the café full of students again has made us all feel rejuvenated and excited for the continual reopening of the world post-COVID.” Chan shared the same positivity: “It’s great to see a lot more foot traffic on Raymond Avenue because of the students.” As did Seghal: “There is a new life feeling after Vassar students are allowed to leave the campus and shop in my small store.”
Still, with the pandemic and statewide restrictions looming, restaurants are cautious with fully reopening. Lee noted: “We are not anywhere near opening back up indoor dining since our installations are small. Hopefully, we will be opening outdoor dining in the next few weeks when the weather gets better.”
Other establishments were less affected by the surge in Vassar patronage, which was limited even pre-pandemic. Montego Bay owner Noleen Thomas says: “Unfortunately, we did not get much support from the Vassar students [pre-pandemic]. Occasionally, we will get a catering order from a small group but that’s about it. Nothing has changed now.” Regardless, the overall mood expressed seems to be one of renewal and excitement, as surmised by a statement from Gladmore Cleaners: “Thank you very much, Vassar. We missed you!”