Hopkins students notable in their absence in Charles Village

Loading his earthly belongings into a laundry cart that he rented from Campus Services, Johns Hopkins University freshman Austin Dennis made several trips from his dormitory room to his car on residential Greenway at North Charles Street, opposite the Homewood campus May 15.

It was move-out week for Hopkins students as the school year ended, and Dennis, an economics major, was catching a flight that night to his hometown of Miami, Fla., where he planned to relax and find a summer job.

Why not stay in Baltimore for the summer, he was asked.

"Because I can go to Miami," he said, grinning.

The exodus of Hopkins students will have a noticeable impact on businesses and residents in the Charles Village-Oakenshawe area. Eateries, markets and other stores along Charles, Calvert and St. Paul streets are bracing for a slow summer without thousands of students like Dennis, 18, who said he goes to Charles Village three or four times a week, mostly to eat at places like Subway, Chipotle, Potbelly, Sandella's and University Mini-Mart.

"Especially at the end of the year, people try to stop eating the school food," Dennis said, "You get tired of it. You want something different."

"During the semester, we don't have time to cook," said junior Allie Fink, of Westchester County, N.Y., who was packing up at 34th and Charles streets to go home for the summer.

The departure of students will be bad for business, said Ahmad Hamed, a franchisee of the Connecticut-based sandwich shop chain Sandella's. He said his three-year-old shop at 3201 St. Paul St., which specializes in healthy breads and sandwiches, has enough trouble already, competing with Chipotle and the other sandwich shops on the same block.

Now, with students leaving, "I'm sure it's going to affect us," Hamed said, adding that he hopes to limp along with employees of local offices and Union Memorial Hospital until Hopkins students return in the fall.

Summer blues for businesses

Hopkins in recent years has been trying to get students more integrated into the community, purchasing land for off-campus, mixed-use developments like a Barnes & Noble bookstore and student housing. Most recently, the university purchased a vacant lot at 33rd and St. Paul streets and announced plans for more retail and apartments. But the restaurants and other businesses like Verizon Wireless that have sprung up along St. Paul and other commercial corridors are partly dependent on Hopkins students for their success.

That's why Sandella's and other businesses on the same block are bracing for a student-less summer.

"We do see a small dip" in business," said Curtis Ellison, a sales consultant for the Verizon Wireless store. But Ellison said even in summer, business "comes and goes," depending on what new phone products come out.

And Ellison said there is a steady business from international students, many of whom stay in town for the summer or come back at the beginning of August, "a little earlier than you might think," he said.

At the Potbelly Sandwich Shop, which opened March 26, manager Jessica Byars said the Chicago-based chain took the departure of Hopkins students into account when it opened the St. Paul Street shop, as the chain does with other shops it has opened near colleges and universities.

"We're in colleges all over the country," Byars said.

And Potbelly is trying to align itself closely with the Hopkins community, with sports photos and other Hopkins memorabilia around the restaurant, said Byars, who wore a Hopkins baseball cap and used to manage a Potbelly at the University of Maryland in College Park.

As a new restaurant in Charles Village, "we're not sure what to expect here," once students depart, Byars said. "We're sure there's going to be some dropoff."

She too hopes to recoup some businesses with area office and hospital workers, as well as catering opportunities.

"In the summer, we try to bump (catering) up a little bit," she said.