College students bring busyness (and business) back to Boston with move-in

Many+local+businesses+near+Northeastern+experience+a+sudden+influx+of+customers+in+September+as+college+students+return+to+Boston.+Photo+by+Quillan+Anderson.

Many local businesses near Northeastern experience a sudden influx of customers in September as college students return to Boston. Photo by Quillan Anderson.

Christina McCabe, news correspondent

While college students are spending their last few weeks of summer preparing to move into Boston, local businesses are preparing for move-in as well. 

From fall to spring, Boston is a bustling college town, with almost three dozen universities in the city. As of 2018, around 138,000 college and university students pack into the city, accounting for about 20% of the total population in Boston. 

Because summer tends to be less busy, many owners and employers who spoke with The News said it is a struggle to keep up with the sudden influx of students when September rolls around. 

“It’s been busy, but not like the winter time,” said Miguel Rivera, a shift leader at Playa Bowls on Huntington Avenue. “When the college students come back we hold a lot of fundraisers, and those are an eleven out of ten for busyness. It’s way too busy.”

Playa Bowls, a smoothie bowl shop, has three locations in the Greater Boston area. Rivera has worked at the Huntington Avenue location for 10 months. He said not only has he experienced the fall move-in rush, but also the challenges that come with it. 

“When our college kids leave to go back to school, we are really understaffed, so we hire new people to have that extra support,” Rivera said. 

Rivera added that it is a challenge hiring for such a fast-paced work environment, especially when their hiring seasons are in November, when many college students return home for the holidays, and June, when most students are home on summer break. 

Sarah Harkins, a third-year physical therapy graduate student, has also noticed the change of pace in restaurants around campus when students return for the fall semester.

“Qdoba is a lot quieter in the summer,” Harkins said. “There were days when it was just me in there, but it’s typically busier during the fall.”

Other local vendors, beyond just restaurants, who spoke with The News said they experience the same rush of busyness during the fall and spring semesters. 

“Here at the floral shop, it has been slower in the summer, and spring is the busiest because of holidays, so that makes our shop crazy busy,” said Alyssa Van Der Hoek, a college student who works part time at Fern, a local florist in Boston. 

College students aren’t always in the market for flowers on a regular basis, but they drive Fern’s sales in unexpected ways. 

“People will come in to get flowers for students doing auditions at Berklee right across the street, so that definitely does affect the business level,” Van Der Hoek said. 

While understaffing may seem like the biggest threat to businesses during the busy seasons, Rivera had a different perspective. 

When asked what the hardest part is when the students come back to campus, he said, it was teamwork. 

“Sometimes we don’t feel comfortable when we have not met the new hires, so it gets really frustrating trying to communicate with a team that does not know how to work together,” Rivera said. “It’s difficult to shift from the teamwork we had with the older employees there to that of a team of new hires.”

Like many college cities, frequent employee turnover is often inevitable. Despite the quick transition, Boston’s businesses find ways to keep up with the crowds and still strive to provide their best service.