As colleges clear campuses in response to Covid-19, local small businesses struggle for survival

CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina — For about 10 days, things felt like they were back to normal for Jim Kitchen’s frozen yogurt shop on Chapel Hill’s main drag, a quick walk from the University of North Carolina’s main campus. Lines ran around the block as thousands of students buzzed along Franklin Street, the historic thoroughfare lined with bars, restaurants, coffee shops and music stores. The energy was short lived.

Kitchen, also a professor of entrepreneurship at the university, said the campus was akin to a ghost town when he walked the grounds this week, just days after the university sent students packing due to a flurry of coronavirus outbreaks. Gone were thousands of students who sustain his business, Yogurt Pump, and the other mom-and-pop shops in the area.

Chapel Hill exemplifies the disruption college towns are experiencing because of the pandemic. Foot traffic in many locations has evaporated, throwing everything that makes up the classic college town — the cafes, restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts that subsist on home football games and parents weekends — in flux. Should the coronavirus continue to disrupt the economy into 2021, hundreds of these cultural hotspots could become riddled with empty storefronts.

Read the full story on’s sister site, Cleveland Business Journal.

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