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Papal visit affects campus business

Many establishments on Main Campus reported a decrease in sales during Pope Francis’ visit.

Gabe Elko hadn’t seen such a decline in sales since Hurricane Sandy.

Elko, a worker at The Creperie at Temple—one of the food trucks on Main Campus—said the recent papal visit caused a sharp decline in the business’ sales.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “A couple of years ago we had Hurricane Sandy …  and that definitely deterred some stuff, but this was something way different. People definitely prepared for it just like a storm.”

Saxbys barista Mimi Kwakye said sales were also down at the coffee shop on Liacouras Walk. Because many students tried to leave the city for the weekend, coffee wasn’t in such high demand, she said.

“Usually a lot of kids come in between classes but class wasn’t going,” Kwakye said. “Kids went home, or kids weren’t studying so they didn’t need as much coffee as they usually do.”

Gabby Ryan, a head bartender at Maxi’s, said business was “completely dead” during the papal visit weekend, which started when students went home Thursday.

Ryan said costs of keeping Maxi’s running during the weekend outweighed the decline in profits.

“It cost [the owner] more for us to be here than he made all weekend,” she said. “It cost more basically to keep the lights on in this place.”

“Three bartenders worked the whole weekend,” Ryan added. “Our owner actually put up money for two of our cooks to stay at the Conwell Inn all weekend because they live in Jersey and they wouldn’t be able to get across the bridge.”

Not everybody decided to risk staying open. Feio Alzlvski, owner of Fame’s Famous Pizza, said the business was shut down because of the projected lack of revenue.

The inactivity on campus was something he had never experienced, Alzlvski added.

“I saw shuttle buses, but didn’t see nobody around,” he said. “I’ve been here 30 years, this is the first time I’ve ever seen that.”

Kwakye said Saxbys weekend employees resorted to crafts to keep busy during the lull by writing quotes on the cups and decorating the store.

During normal hours, Saxbys operates until 10 p.m. on the weekend. But during the papal visit, Kwakye said the coffee shop closed as early as 6 p.m.

Kwakye added on a typical day, Saxbys receives more than 1,000 orders. On the Friday before Pope Francis came to Philadelphia, the shop received about 600 orders, she said.

Saxbys also served a different crowd during the papal visit. Instead of college students, baristas helped more international customers, whether for coffee, or to help with directions, Kwakye said.

Two weeks after the Pope’s visit, businesses on campus are still slowly recuperating from the financial break due to students catching up on schoolwork, Ryan said.

Ultimately, Ryan said most businesses thought sales would increase because of the influx of people in the city. Now, those same establishments will prepare for future events that could decrease sales around campus.

“Everybody, I feel like in the service industry, thought … it was going to be a, ‘You’re going to make a lot of money this weekend, there’s going to be a lot of people in the city,’” Ryan said. “I feel like if I had just known it was going to be what it was, I would have better prepared financially.”

Maryvic Perez can be reached at maryvic.perez@temple.edu.

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