Ellensburg is a college town and with that comes some unique qualities. In a town of 20,000, roughly half are students, so what happens to the local economy when its population fluctuates greatly as students come and go for the summer?
Businesses vary in how they work and how they are affected by change, but all share some common rules. One of these rules is that the closer Ellensburg businesses are to CWU, the more they are affected by the migration of students. Domino’s pizza, which is directly across the street from campus and receives a great deal of its business from students, experiences a sales drop by about 30 percent during the summer, according to the General Manager Justin Tucker.
“We lose a little bit of sales but not a ton,” Tucker said. “Over the summer the biggest change is late-night business. Lunch and dinner sales change a little, but it’s mostly late-night sales that have major change.”
Some businesses are affected even more than this, such as Subway on University Way and Alder street. This franchise is already at a disadvantage compared to the location on the other side of town on Canyon Road, earning about half as much and relying on the profits from its counterpart to stay open. According to sandwich artist Jonathan Pinon, sales drop dramatically in the summer.
“For sure there’s a lot less people coming in during the summer,” Pinon said. “Students are the main customers. In the summer it’s about half as much business and it’s the same in the winter.”
Other businesses are not so affected. Utopia Frozen Yogurt and Coffee House sees only a 10 to 15 percent decrease in business during the summer, according to owner Beth Finger, even though the business is adjacent to CWU.
“It only drops a little because we have camps going on and other things on campus,” Finger said. “We also get more locals with kids. It’s more spread out during the day rather than having big rushes like the lunch rush.”
According to Finger, her employment also balances out.
“We have those graduating and leaving, those going home for the summer, but also students who want to work more during the summer,” Finger said.
The farther businesses are from campus, the amount that they are affected by the bi-annual migration decreases. They are also affected by tourism, which is more prevalent during the summer. Carol Cox, owner of Old Skool’s on Main Street, sees this regularly.
“Students leave so I don’t have them coming in, but we get tourists coming in and going to concerts at the Gorge. It about evens out,” Cox said.
The Fire house dispensary does see a change in business, but more of a change in kind than scale, according to budtender Johnny McDavid.
“In the summer we do see that mass exodus of students. However, after a while, we have built up strong relationships with the community and have regulars coming in at the same rate, sometimes every day,” McDavid said. “We see about a 10 percent change in overall business, but we get a lot more tourism and concert-goers. We have that core group of locals and the after-work and lunch rushes stay consistent.”