Stillwater businesses found spring break to be a big challenge for business.
Spring break is a tradition for college students to get away from the college. Most students travel to a beach destination and spend the entire week drinking to the point of alcohol poisoning.
The absence of students in a college town affects each Stillwater business differently. Some businesses found no difference between the week of spring break and any other week during the semester. Other businesses found that spring break causes a break in their profits.
Miriam Hunn, store manager of Hibbett Sports at Hall of Fame and McElroy Streets, said her business lost almost half of its sales during spring break.
“I have never had that happen,” Hunn said. “Last year I know there were some camps and some tournaments so I think that helped us out. This year I know the college was out, Stillwater schools were out and there weren’t any camps to draw people into the store.”
Hunn said one positive thing about spring break is the students who stay in town work twice as much as they do normally. She said most associates work 15 hours a week but because of the lack of workers, they worked 30 hours a week during spring break.
Kita Stokes, a bartender and part-time manager at J.R. Murphy’s bar, said her business suffered during spring break too but the biggest change was the crowd.
“This was my third spring break at Murphy’s and I saw a higher number of locals, so an older crowd,” Stokes said. “Maybe they are just more noticeable now because the students are out of the way, but I saw a larger 30 and over crowd, especially in the early evenings.
“About 10 to 11 I saw a much older crowd, people coming from out of town into Stillwater to partake in the bars when they aren’t quite so busy, especially on St. Paddy’s Day. They come into visit because Stillwater is a party town. They think that they are going to get to see the good times cause they are on break too and it is just not that way.”
Stokes said spring break is important for the bars in Stillwater because that is when they start training new employees for the upcoming football season.
“Typically all bars will hire around spring break and they start their training processes,” Stokes said. “If you hire right before football season, it is like throwing people to the wolves. So we hire early and train through the summer, then you get to the football season and you have enough experience not to panic when there’s 400 people in the building.”
Not every business in Stillwater lost business during spring break. Kelsey Harris, the store manager of The Buckle at hall of fame and McElroy, said her business did better during spring break than it did during a normal week.
“We weren’t affected at all,” Harris said. “It was amazing. We surpassed all of our numbers. I hire the right people for the job. I would say half of my team left but the people who stayed were awesome and knew what to do. It was probably one of the funnest weeks I’ve had in a really long time.”
Harris said she thinks the store promotions were a big factor in the increase in sales. Customers, who made a purchase, had the chance to win up to $20 off a purchase and receive a free beach bag.
With the majority of students leaving Stillwater for spring break, those students who stayed in town were able to work more hours and experience a different side of Stillwater most students don’t see.
Monique Hurd, a freshman who works at Med-X Drugs, was one of the students who stayed in Stillwater during spring break. Hurd said Med-X didn’t see a decline in customer but saw mostly locals in the store.
Hurd said she stayed in Stillwater because she worked five days during spring break and didn’t want to spend her two days off work driving back and forth between Bixby and Stillwater. Hurd said she liked staying in Stillwater and working and would continue to do it in the future.
“Most likely I would stay in here and work,” Hurd said. “I’d rather save my money instead of spending it all going to Florida or something. Honestly, I don’t know how most students can afford to travel during spring break. I barely work enough during a normal week to pay bills and eat.”
Alex Hardison, a freshman who works at Wal-Mart’s pharmacy department on Perkins Street, was also in Stillwater during spring break. He said he didn’t enjoy being in Stillwater and didn’t see a significant change in business.
“There wasn’t a noticeable change in business,” Hardison said. “I only worked an extra four hours than I normally do. The only effect that we had was a reduction in sales on certain items that more college students buy like birth control, the Plan B pill and the prescription medications for the college students.”
Hardison said unlike most businesses in Stillwater, Wal-Mart’s pharmacy department only had two employees leave for spring break and thinks that was a reason why he didn’t see a significant increase in work hours.
Hardison said he didn’t enjoy spending spring break in Stillwater and plans to get away in the future.
“It was a dead town,” Hardison said. “During spring break, I was out and about in town throughout many periods of the day and I noticed the streets were much less busy, there was much less traffic and people at any particular building or store.
“For students spring break is supposed to be your time to get away and do whatever you want. I would rather get out of the town and do something fun, take my mind off of school. It’s kind of hard to forget about school when I have to return to my dorm room every night.”