Pizza, books and snacks: Small businesses near Hampshire College bracing for fewer students

  • Sibie’s Pizza driver Patrick Rohan, right, makes a delivery to Hampshire College junior Sara Webber for the weekly meeting of the Civil Liberties and Public Policy group at Prescott Tavern on campus on Thursday, April 18, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Aaron Brigham, left, and George Duranti make dinnertime orders at Sibie’s Pizza in South Amherst on Thursday, April 18, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • George Duranti, left, and Aaron Brigham make dinnertime orders at Sibie’s Pizza in South Amherst on Thursday, April 18, 2019. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Aaron Brigham prepares a pizza crust at Sibie’s Pizza in South Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • George Duranti, left, and Aaron Brigham take phone orders at Sibie’s Pizza in South Amherst on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • George Duranti boxes a pizza for delivery at Sibie’s Pizza in South Amherst on Thursday, April 18, 2019. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Sibie’s Pizza driver Patrick Rohan, right, waits as Hampshire College junior Sara Webber signs for a delivery to the weekly meeting of the Civil Liberties and Public Policy group at Prescott Tavern on campus. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 4/19/2019 2:59:11 PM

AMHERST — On some days, delivery drivers make as many as 15 trips between Sibie’s Pizza and Hampshire College. But the owners of the South Amherst restaurant are worried there will be fewer deliveries to campus in the coming months.

Amid financial turmoil, Hampshire’s board of trustees decided on Feb. 1 to admit only 77 students this fall, leading to an inevitable shrinking of the college after the current academic year ends. Layoffs of staff and faculty are expected at the end of this month, and interim president Ken Rosenthal has estimated that there will be around 600 students on campus come fall — down from 1,175 this academic year.

“It’s definitely going to affect our business,” said Matt Heron-Duranti, whose family owns Sibie’s Pizza. “Part of our customer base is disappearing. It won’t affect it drastically, but it will affect it.”

Sibie’s Pizza is one of a handful of local businesses bracing for a decline in business with fewer students, staff and faculty on campus this fall at the smaller Hampshire. The town of Amherst is also expecting to be hit.

“We’ve just been brainstorming all the major impacts that it could have,” Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman said. For example, Bockelman said the town will face a loss of revenue because of the college’s reduced use of water and sewer systems.

Businesses that could be affected include neighboring shops, companies that have relationships with the college, local farmers producing food for the dining commons, the cultural institutions surrounding campus and day care centers, Bockelman said.

“We knew right away we would see a decrease in traffic,” said Kelly Lannon, co-owner and treasurer of Atkins Farms Country Market.

A substantial percentage of the store’s customers are from Hampshire, Lannon said, given the store’s proximity to the school.

Lannon said there’s not much the store can do to prevent a drop-off in shoppers. The grocery’s buyers have a sense of what Hampshire clientele usually get at the store, so they will purchase less of those items going forward, Lannon said.

“The best we can do is keep our connection with Hampshire and support them in any way that we can,” she added. “Hopefully, they can resume classes and business as usual in the near future.”

Other nearby businesses in South Amherst also expect to see fewer people from Hampshire soon.

“Any loss of population is going to affect me and the South Amherst center,” said Len Pratt, the owner of R&P Package Store on West Street.

But only around a quarter of the student body can legally buy alcohol anyway, Pratt added. More concerning to Pratt has been the bridge closure on Station Road, which for months prevented potential patrons in the Amherst Woods neighborhood from visiting his store. He suspects legal recreational marijuana also has cut into his profits.

One business that has a particularly strong relationship with Hampshire is Amherst Books, which began partnering with the school in 2017 to supply textbooks after the national education company Follett didn’t renew its contract to run the college’s bookstore.

“We’ll obviously see a lot of that business decline,” said Nat Herold, one of the store’s owners and himself a Hampshire graduate who taught at the school in the 1980s. Business is already tough enough as is, with online giants like Amazon cutting into sales, he added. “We’re barely keeping afloat.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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