Tucker Shuff: As Bellarmine Knights enter the fourth week of the Fall 2021 semester and are adjusting to the return to in-person classes and living on campus, one has to ask how this sudden increase in hungry mouths to feed has had an impact on the many locally owned restaurants and eateries located in the nearby Louisville Highlands, Kentucky’s famous “Restaurant Row.”
With deadlines and all-night study sessions hallmarks of the college experience, it should come as no surprise that the near-dozen coffee houses situated along Restaurant Row are experiencing significant increases in patronage following the start of the school year.
“There’s definitely an increase in traffic and sales come fall. As soon as elementary, junior high, high school students are coming back but also college students,” said Douglass Loop Heine Bros. manager Adrian Silbernagel. “College students tend to be a little bit older and drinking coffee and tea and stuff like that.”
A second Heine Bros. location at 1250 Bardstown Road saw a similar boost in customer traffic at the beginning of the school year, according to manager Kyle Kiesel.
“Yeah, definitely. Definitely on the weekends. You have a lot of people in the cafe studying,” he said.
Both managers said they have welcomed this increase in customer traffic, citing it as beneficial for business and overall profits.
Some owners and managers of local businesses see the sudden boom in customer traffic brought by the start of the fall semester as an opportunity to explore new ways in which they can serve their customers and their community.
Rock White, manager of Super Chefs at 1702 Bardstown Road, said: “We would love to be able to offer up some kind of discount. And on the flip-side we would also offer a creative discount, even for that matter, for students who have a certain GPA. Why not reward those who are doing a little more and beyond?”
It isn’t just students on the prowl for a quick treat or a filling meal that is having a positive impact on local businesses in the Highlands area. Several programs and events sponsored by Bellarmine’s Student Activities Center (SAC) are designed to increase Bellarmine Knights’ awareness of the numerous local restaurants located in the Highlands and to help Bellarmine students better acclimate to their new surroundings.
At the beginning of the semester, the SAC sponsored its ‘Taste of Bardstown’ event, which gave students vouchers and gift cards to local establishments and encouraged them to journey out into the Highlands area to spend them.
“With them doing the ‘Taste of Bardstown Road,’ I do know there was quite a few Bellarmine students going up and down Bardstown road, patronizing small businesses, which we really appreciate,” said Dawn Urritia, who is the founder, part-owner, and manager of Georgia’s Sweet Potato Pie Shop at 1559 Bardstown Road.