Downtown Wilmington businesses welcome the return of CFCC students

Now that the holiday season is over, classes are back in session at Cape Fear Community College. That’s good news for downtown Wilmington merchants, many of which count on college students and employees for a large part of their business.

According to a recent survey conducted by the college, over half of all CFCC students and employees frequent a downtown business at least once a week. Forty percent indicated that they visit a downtown business twice a week or more.

With over 30,000 people taking classes at CFCC every year, the college provides a reliable source of customers who keep downtown businesses going when tourist activity fluctuates.

Paul Brown, who owns the Java Dog coffee house in the Cotton Exchange, said that CFCC students and employees make up a large part of his regular customer base.

“I see an immediate drop off in sales when the college goes on break. It’s always good to see them come back,” Brown said.

Dan Boyle, who runs the Firebelly Lounge on Front St. says that his business is greatly dependent on business from college students and employees.

“Having the college in downtown has been great for us,” Boyle said.

In fact, he developed a special lunch menu to target college customers on a budget.

He said that particularly during the end of tourist season, more businesses need to take advantage of the market that the college provides.

College officials estimate that an average of 5,000 students and employees visit the downtown area on a typical weekday. Spring semester classes start on Friday, Jan. 4.