Davis prides itself on being a college town, but in the summer when school is not in regular session, the city gets quieter as many students return home or travel. Residents get a taste of life in an even smaller town.
With 30,685 students enrolled at UC Davis and many leaving for the summer, Davis businesses get quieter too. Some small business owners in Davis feel a drastic change, while others operate as they would in any other season.
Shifts in the population have advantages and disadvantages, said Jeff Adamski, the treasurer of the Davis Downtown Business Association.
“Most food places are slower,” Adamski said. “Retail businesses are fairly stable, since they rely more on the core population. The housing goods stores see a bump when the students start to move back into town and need things to fix up their places.”
The ever present problem of parking in the downtown area is reduced as well, said Adamski, who works at First Northern Bank on Second Street.
“You know the students are gone because parking is much easier,” he said.
At Kaya Yoga, a small yoga studio on Fifth Street, the decrease in the student population hasn’t forced change in the studio’s operations yet, despite the fact that its clientele is mostly UC Davis affiliates.
Owner Kia Meaux opened the studio in November of 2006, and while her first summer was slow, her second is going well so far, she said.
“Our class sizes are very dependent on the UC Davis calendar,” Meaux said. “My student body is about 25 percent locals and 75 percent students, researchers and faculty.”
Meaux has 15 classes per week on the calendar, and averages around 20 students per class.
During Meaux’s first summer, she cut back the class schedule in order to deal with dwindling attendance numbers. So far this summer, she hasn’t seen a need to make cuts, and is hoping to keep it that way.
“Last year we went into a reduced schedule in August,” Meaux said. “I’m hoping to stay open all of August this year.”
The difficulty in staying open is not only based on the decrease in students, but also in teaching staff.
“I have three other teachers, and they may want to take vacations,” Meaux said. “Finding substitutes who are available when students want to take classes is hard.”
Other businesses that depend almost entirely on student business continue to operate throughout the summer.
The UC Davis Bookstore is a “12-month operation,” said general manager Chuck Kratochvil.
The store has, on average, 65 to 70 career staff and around 200 student staff on the payroll, he said, noting that there isn’t a very significant decrease in staffing during the summer months.
While the number of enrolled students drops, the campus stays active during the summer. There are two summer sessions, new student orientations and a steady steam of conferences that keep the bookstore busy.
“We’re always moving inventory behind the scenes,” Kratochvil said, “During the summer we’re busier. If we don’t have our holiday orders in by this point, we’re late.”
The Downtown Davis Business Association does not offer advice or tips to businesses for how to manage during the summer months, Adamski said. Instead, each establishment finds its own way of handling the three months – if they cause a change in business at all.
The quieting of the town is notable, however, and for many, a relief.
“The city uses it as a breather to recover,” he said.
ALI EDNEY can be reached at email@example.com.