Charleston businesses talk economic impact of Eastern students

Lynnsey Veach, Contributing Writer

Local businesses shared their support of the Eastern community and expressed concerns about declining enrollment and the approaching end of the spring semester.

An impact study conducted by Coles Together, an economic development organization, detailed the economic effect Eastern has on the Charleston community.

According to this study, Charleston businesses attribute up to 40 percent of their revenue to Eastern’s presence.

For every 1,000 students enrolled at Eastern, spending in Coles County increased by $8.6 million.

Angela Griffin, the president of Coles Together, said the organization was inspired to research this subject because of concerns from local businesses.

Julian Avalos, manager of Mi Casa Tu Casa and an Eastern student, said he has noticed support from students and faculty during his year working at the restaurant, which is located near Old Main.

The restaurant has struggled to gain new customers, he said, noting that most of their returning customers are connected to the university.

The restaurant is even considering temporarily closing during the summer, as many students leave after the spring semester or graduate, Avalos said.

Avalos said he estimates nearly 60 to 70 percent of Mi Casa Tu Casa’s business comes from Eastern students and staff.

Mi Casa Tu Casa also employs students, making it difficult to keep the business fully staffed in the summer.

Because the restaurant relies on Eastern’s population, declining enrollment poses a challenge for them as well.

“The owner tells me when there is less enrollment it really does affect us,” Avalos said.

Maurices, a women’s clothing store, also attracts business from the Eastern community, Angelina Palermo, the store’s assistant manager, said.

She said the store has six employees who study at Eastern, including herself.

Maurices relies on students who shop for campus events and functions throughout the school year, Palermo said.

“Eastern is really important to our business,” Palermo said. “A lot of faculty also come here looking for clothes.”

David Kirsch, general manager of Unique Suites Hotel, said the business depends on the Eastern community to be successful.

Along with families visiting their students throughout the year, Kirsch said athletic events at Eastern also draw business in.

The Days Inn Charleston also considers Eastern’s presence in the community a contributing factor in their business, Cameran Lotz, assistant manager of the hotel, said. She said the hotel is busiest during athletic events and occasions such as Family Weekend.

Lotz said professors at Eastern who live out of town often stay the night at the hotel, and this helps their business as well.

Carl Wolff, the owner of Gateway Liquors, said all of his employees study at Eastern.

“Eastern affects the whole city of Charleston, that’s what Charleston is. It’s a university town,” Wolff said.

Robin Atteberry, store manager of CVS Pharmacy, said the store employs five students. “That’s 30 percent of our staff,” Atteberry said.

Vicky Hinds, the owner of First Impressions Salon, said Eastern’s presence attracts more businesses in Charleston, which gives her salon more traffic.

She said the salon is able to draw more clients in because of its connection to Eastern. “It allows us to get involved in EIU events, Homecoming and Greek life,” Hinds said.

Lynnsey Veach can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]