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Orono business owners prepare for influx of UMaine students

Some rely on students, others worry locals will stay away.
Orono business owners prepare for college return
Orono business owners prepare for college return(WABI)
Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 3:39 PM EDT
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ORONO, Maine (WABI) - Orono is a college town.

One that in normal years would rejoice at the thought of thousands of students returning for the new school year.

This is not a normal year.

TV5 spoke with business owners about how they are feeling as the start of new school year draws closer.

“I am worried about what’s going to happen when the influx happens,” said The Store Ampersand owner Roberta Bradson.

She adds that they rely heavily on locals to keep them going.

“We have quadrupled our orders since this pandemic started. I would say that our business has improved quite a bit this summer over other summers. We don’t have the type of business that does really well with the college crowd. "

Just up the street at The Family Dog, it’s a different story.

“We need college to get through our year,” said owner Luke Wardwell. The fall is going to pose some challenges with no sports and kids moving out Thanksgiving, but we’re going to do what we can and make it work.”

Making it work is important, especially after having to close earlier this year.

“We literally had the rug pulled out from under us for three months which is tough for any business to survive,” said owner Sandy Wardwell.

“Orono is a really close knit community,” said Ampersand owner Emelia Bradson. “We know all the people whether they shop in here or we see them outside on the street. So far for us this summer, everybody has been really respectful. Respectful of our signs. Respectful of the delicate climate that we’re all in. I could see why people in the community would be scared. I would be a little reluctant to see all the students come back because now we’re bringing all those people in the community that may not be as respectful.”

“I think that’s going to scare a lot of them away,” added Roberta. “Especially the older people that come in here. They are not going to come into the store if they know that there’s 12,000 more students flocking through the streets.”

“It’s very challenging to balance that,” said Luke. “Making sure we’re all in procedure and training our staff with all of the restaurant COVID things that Janet Mills has put out. Making sure we are all in compliance, that is the most challenging part.”

“We really have to trust that the community and the university are doing their part as well and taking the science seriously because that’s what everybody is thinking about,” added Sandy. “What should we be doing to stay safe and stay healthy. We have to say that we are cautiously optimistic about what’s ahead of us.”

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