Many restaurants near the University of Oregon campus lost business because of the pandemic and temporary closures. Fewer students on campus exacerbated the issue. However, business owners said they feel optimistic about business increasing with students back for in-person classes.
Jacqui Willey, owner of Glenwood Restaurant, said UO students are very important to her business, making up approximately half of her customer base.
Willey has owned Glenwood Restaurant for almost 43 years. She said 2020 was the first year the restaurant has ever lost money. The restaurant temporarily closed several times throughout March, April, May and June last year, she said.
When mandates required six feet of distance between parties, the restaurant reduced its number of tables downstairs from 14 to four, Willey said.
However, Willey said Glenwood Restaurant is already experiencing more business from students returning to campus.
“This last week, we’ve been so much busier than we’ve been in a few months,” Willey said. “They’ve helped pay our rent and keep our utilities going.”
Amanda Watts has owned Mandy’s Family Restaurant for almost three years. Since March 2020, she has limited the restaurant to takeout and lowered her staff. She said she added outdoor tables and an ice cream shop so the restaurant could become a destination point for people coming from outdoor activities.
However, Watts said her business slowed down at the beginning of the pandemic. Her numbers have not returned to how they were her first year of opening, she said, but students returning to campus gave the restaurant a surge of business.
“With this school year — like moving day — I have parents, and I have students,” she said. “I just think that people are coming back who knew about us as well as talking about us. So, freshmen were trying us.”
Watts said the Waddle Meal Plan, an off-campus student meal plan that helps students budget while connecting them with local restaurants, has supported her business. She said she is excited for the large number of freshmen on campus and wants to build more of a relationship with the university.
UO’s first day of classes brought in over 4,600 freshmen, making it the largest freshman class in the university’s history.
Watts will open Mandy’s Family Restaurant for indoor seating mid-October, while also continuing her takeout window, she said.
Catherine Reinhart, co-owner of Sweet Life Patisserie, said UO students contribute to approximately half of her business.
Reinhart said the pandemic made her business significantly slower in 2020. However, business has been ramping up since January, she said. The patisserie is now up to pre-pandemic numbers.
The patisserie created new systems in order to keep people safe, Reinhart said. People can pre-pay and have staff bring the order outside. Customers can also wait outside for their order to come through a window.
Reinhart said business has already picked up now that more students are back.
Jim Robertson, owner of Prince Puckler's Gourmet Ice Cream, closed his shop for a month-and-a-half in 2020, he said. The shop did curbside pick-up and eliminated its seating once it reopened. Robertson said the shop experienced a negative financial impact because of the closure.
Summer is the busiest time of year for the shop — even with fewer students, Robertson said. Students balance out the business during the rest of the year. However, business was slower with less students during the pandemic, he said.
Robertson said he has already had more students at his shop and is optimistic about business increasing. “We’re just very excited just to see — not just for ourselves, but for everybody — students back,” he said.