Local Businesses Closed Graphic

Penn State announced a fall return to in-person classes on June 14, receiving mixed reactions from both students and faculty — however, many forget that the university’s decision will also impact local businesses.

Many State College businesses are both excited and apprehensive for the students’ return.

Marie Librizzi, owner of the Old Main Frame Shop & Gallery and former owner of Sadie’s Gourmet Waffles, said the past few months have been difficult without students and faculty.

“I think it’s great that the kids are coming back,” Librizzi said. “It’s been a very trying time for small businesses.”

Librizzi witnessed the hardship firsthand, as she had to permanently close Sadie’s Gourmet Waffles in March after six years of business.

While she worries about what social distancing will look like in the fall, Librizzi said businesses are happy to “finally get people back spending money.”

Joshua Feggins, the assistant general manager of Snap Custom Pizza in State College, is less worried about revenue and more worried about social distancing.

Snap Custom Pizza never closed during the peak of the pandemic and remained open during the “red phase” of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s reopening plan.

“We’ve been doing okay with sales,” Feggins said. “We had a lot more locals come into the downtown area.”

Feggins said he is excited to see students returning, but is concerned for their health.

“It becomes a little difficult to remind customers to wear face masks while walking around and to keep social distancing,” Feggins said. “[I’m] hoping the college isn’t opening back up just to bring in more revenue. I hope they are worrying about people’s health.”

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He also spoke about the uncertainty surrounding Penn State’s fall plans.

“What [are students] coming for if we’re going to end the semester early?” Feggins said. “Is the pandemic really subsiding and are we really going to worry about everyone’s health?”

McLanahan’s was considered an essential business, so it also remained open during the coronavirus shutdown.

Jim French, the general manager at McLanahan’s, said he believes the coronavirus situation is very “multifaceted.”

“[Penn State’s] announcement was short on details and we don’t know how many students will actually return,” French said. “Everybody’s in a wait-and-see right now.”

French said McLanahan’s is excited for students to return to Happy Valley, but unsure of what that will look like.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say we were a little nervous,” French said.

Elaine Meder-Wilgus, the owner of Webster’s Bookstore Cafe, is grateful for the “uptick in business.”

The bookstore has been able to stay afloat because its main customer base isn’t undergraduate students, but State College residents and Penn State graduate students.

Meder-Wilgus said the business has lost an “enormous” amount of money as a result of the shutdown.

“[The pandemic has been] catastrophic for business,” Meder-Wilgus said. “Being a business owner, you have to be incredibly resilient.”

Meder-Wilgus’s priority will be to keep everyone safe by following the proper social distancing guidelines.

“I’ve been well supported by this community, but it’s been incredibly hard,” Meder-Wilgus said. “I’m focusing on the positive.”

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