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How Brenau students' return affects local businesses
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Faith Stein of Panama City Beach, Florida, moves in to her dorm with some help from her family at Brenau University in Gainesville on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

Move-in day at Brenau University, which took place Wednesday, Aug. 21, marked the beginning of an academic adventure for students, but for many local businesses, it signified something different.

“In the city their (students’) impact is huge for business all the way around,” Nick Hoecker, co-owner of Downtown Drafts said. “If they went away I think everybody around would be really hurt. That would be quite the ripple effect.”

Kristen Bowman, Brenau’s director of communications and media relations, said so far nearly 2,700 students have enrolled for the fall 2019 semester, 151 of which are from Hall County. This number will continue to change until after the add and drop date, which is Friday, Aug. 30. 

When the fall semester begins at Brenau, Inman Perk Coffee in downtown Gainesville anticipates a wave of students. 

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Katie Watkins, 18, from Sharpsburg, left, puts on adhesives to hang her posters while her father, Rob, right, hangs them in her dorm on move-in day at Brenau University in Gainesville on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

Michelle Benanti, Inman’s manager, said the coffee shop embraces its student customers by giving discounts on espresso drinks and encouraging them to stay longer. 

“We try to make sure that our environment is warm and welcoming, and available for studying,” Benanti said. 

More than half of the business’s staff are students who attend Brenau or the University of North Georgia.

Dorsey Danielson, employee at Recess Southern Gastro-Pub in downtown Gainesville, said the student population makes the biggest impact during the restaurant’s Fridays and Saturdays. 

“Any time the students come back to school or go away, it makes a difference for us,” she said. 

Robin Branker, manager of 37 Main in Gainesville, is awaiting the influx of students coming into the Rock cafe.

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Jay Rosebury, left, helps Ladeja Moore, right, a freshman at Brenau, from Tampa, Florida, move in to her dorm at Brenau University in Gainesville on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

Branker said she has already had several inquiries about jobs from local students for the fall semester. 

“It’s pretty dead when school isn’t in session,” she said. “Students absolutely have an impact on us, especially during the week for our trivia and dueling pianos.”

The business plans to host college nights toward the end of September, which includes student specials on drinks and food. 

Aimee Hoecker, who co-owns Downtown Drafts, said she wants Brenau students to know that “it’s always a safe place for them here.”

In addition to staff members keeping an eye out for their customers, Downtown Drafts is equipped with cameras inside and around its exterior. 

“If I ever hear anybody harassing another person, that’s obviously a serious issue,” Nick Hoecker said. “I’ve been working with the police officers pretty closely to figure out how to make the square safer.”

Branker said 37 Main also takes customer and staff safety seriously, having two security guards on weekends and an off duty police officer at the Rock cafe. 

Aimee Hoecker said since her Downtown Drafts opened in 2014, Brenau has continued to show its support. 

Members of Brenau’s physical therapy and occupational therapy programs hold celebrations at the business and Downtown Drafts provides its services at alumni and homecoming events.

“We do our best to bend over backwards for Brenau. We love them,” Nick Hoecker said. “If they were to disappear it would hurt business.”


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Freshman take an orientation tour on move-in day at Brenau University in Gainesville on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele
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Steven Lustig, left, helps Faith Stein, right, from Panama City Beach, Florida, move in to her dorm at Brenau University in Gainesville on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele
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