‘What if Edinboro closed?’: A community talks the hypothetical

Category:  News
Wednesday, April 26th, 2017 at 5:12 PM
‘What if Edinboro closed?’: A community talks the hypothetical by Macala Leigey
Photo: Macala Leigey

Earthshine, John’s, Hotel Bar, Dairy Supreme, Crossroads — familiar names that line the quaint streets of downtown Edinboro. Names that give character to the college town and provide a sense of nostalgia for locals and students alike. Names and memories that could fade if Edinboro University ever closed its doors.

Earlier this year, the chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, Frank Brogan, briefly mentioned the consideration of merging or closing a few of the state system universities; as a response to the budget deficit and enrollment decline experienced at many of the universities.

Although state system spokesperson Kenn Marshall retracted the chancellor’s statements in an interview, saying, “We are not, in fact, even considering merging or closing any of the universities at this time, despite what has been reported in some news stories,” the danger is real, according to our own Edinboro University President Dr. H. Fred Walker.

“I’m honestly not worrying about closing Edinboro University. However, if we don’t present ourselves as a unified community, then the risk for that goes up significantly,” he said.

“Could closing happen? Yes,” he continued. “Is that danger real? Yes.”

With the thought of the university closing, multiple Edinboro businesses commented on the hypothetical situation.

“I think it (Edinboro University closing) would impact the whole community. This community relies on the college, the college relies on the community — it works both ways,” said Edinboro Hotel Bar owner Pat Hargest.

He continued: “I think me personally, here, I have a good amount of locals that come in, but obviously we’re a college bar. It would definitely affect the bottom line here, [and] we’d have to look into doing different things.”

Popular with locals during the day, and college students at night, the Edinboro Hotel Bar is the town’s “oldest eating and drinking establishment”; with its liquor license dating back to 1952. The bar not only offers a place of recreation for students, but also a form of employment.

“Right now, I have a full-time manager and a part-time kitchen manager and they’re not in college, but everybody else who works here is in college, and I have roughly 20 employees. I rely on college students for my employment,” said Hargest.

However, Hargest’s bar isn’t the only local business that relies on the university’s student population to fill employment spots.

“A lot of us (employees) are students. We have a bunch of kids that are in school right now, so it would mean that we wouldn’t be able to get as many hires,” said senior employee at John’s Wildwood Pizzeria Cody Stone.

While Stone doubts Edinboro’s iconic John’s Pizzeria would go out of business in the event that the university would close, he expressed that the restaurant could lose a significant factor of its income.

“The college definitely is a really big part of our businesses; that’s almost the only time we’re busy, when college is in town. It brings in a lot of business,” said Stone.

He continued: “We do get a lot of regulars in here, but when the (college) kids are in town, business does pick up a lot. Especially during the summers, we don’t have a whole lot of business during the summers, except for tournaments we have.”

One of Crossroad Diner’s bartender managers also commented on the limited business the diner would receive during the various seasons if the university closed.

“Any event, like sporting event — soccer camps during the summer at the university — they all eat here. Any time there’s a big PIAA basketball playoff, we would miss those customers; any faculty parties are usually here; and there’s groups and organizations associated with the college that come in and eat here too. It’s a community gathering spot for people, specifically from the college,” they said.

Although many of Edinboro’s famous eateries would survive without the economic influence of the university’s population, some businesses predict that their doors would close with the university.

One of those businesses was alternatively orientated clothing shop Earthshine.

“We would probably go out of business. We’ve been here for 27 years — the college has obviously been around for more than 27 years — so if college students weren’t here we would have to change everything we have in the store for community members and away from college student stuff; like incense and cheap things. We would have to change the entire store, but we probably would just go out of business,” said Earthshine cashier Jill Melchitzky.

However, one business feels that the closing of the university wouldn’t have as detrimental of an impact on its economic status as other local businesses.

“I don’t think it (Dairy Supreme) would have to close, but I think it would be bad for business. I mean, we’re open all summer when the college isn’t open, so it wouldn’t impact us as much as some of the other businesses that rely on the college,” said Dairy Supreme Manager Emily Beddick.

She continued: “We’re only open for small amounts of time the college is open, (but) I hope the college doesn’t close.”

“I met the (university) president a few times, seems like a good guy and seems like the university is in good hands as far as figuring out the problems and addressing them so they don’t go out of business. I don’t really know what I can do to prevent it or to brace for it. In my heart I don’t think it will happen, but you never know,” said Hargest.

With the university’s doors still open, rowdy college students will continue to fill the Edinboro Hotel Bar, 4 a.m. study break cravings will be fulfilled at John’s Wildwood Pizzeria, and Earthshine original fashion fads will continue to roam campus.

Macala Leigey is a managing editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com. 

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