Jameson Filston, Campus Carrier Arts & Living Editor
|Bailey Albertson | CAMPUS CARRIER|
Junior Jordan Callahan studies at Swift & Finch. The coffee shop is one of many newer businesses downtown that tries to create an atmosphere that fosters community.
Local businesses have been focusing on building spaces where millennials can find community in order to take advantage of Rome’s large student population.
Heather Seckman, the director of economic development at Rome Chamber of Commerce, said that the change began 10 years ago when a ban was lifted for development on the upper floors of downtown Rome. With the greater concentration of people downtown came more demand for businesses like restaurants. This demand was answered in earnest about five years ago when small businesses like Swift & Finch began to create places for students to hang out.
The coffee shop was at the forefront of this wave and seemed to Parker Clavijo, to have some influence on other, similar businesses. Clavijo, a senior who has worked at Swift & Finch since June, said that it provides a welcoming space for people to meet and work. However, a huge part of the business’ market is college students, so the shop tries to recognize Berry. The shop does not focus on advertising, but rather relies on word of mouth to attract customers.
“It has something to offer for everybody,” Clavijo said.
Swift & Finch is not the only business in Rome that focuses on college students. Marilyn Jones, who has been involved with Kaleido-Sno for 20 years, said that the snack bar began with college students in mind.
Barbara Ware, the owner of Kaleido-Sno, makes an effort to hire students and to reach out to their communities. She takes her food to college campuses around Rome a few times a year and has built a reputation in her 25 years of business.
“She’s very well-known with the student population,” Jones said.
Swift & Finch and Kaleido-Sno try promote a social atmosphere for college students, and Kaleido-Sno gets many of its customers from students who come to visit their friends employed at the shop.
Businesses like these attract more than customers. Seckman said that as the quality of life improves in downtown Rome, other businesses are attracted to the town. This in turn can improve the town further and promote yet more growth.
“They want an environment where they can live,” Seckman said.
When growing a community with quality, the chamber of commerce believes that keeping students in town can be a great way to provide this growth. The jobs created by these businesses and the opportunities they provide for entertainment and dining are a way to attract college students to stay in Rome instead of leaving immediately, which has been the trend in the past. Jones said that she has noticed more college students staying in town in recent years, and Clavijo said that the changes and perspective he has seen when working at Swift & Finch have inspired him to stay in Rome when he graduates.
This aspect of change has created a community within the small businesses of Rome, and they support each other. Clavijo said that no one at Swift & Finch is concerned when students hang out at other places because they know that the other shops will support them in turn. This has allowed businesses like the coffee shop to influence change in other shops in a non-hostile atmosphere.
Change is happening, even within established shops like Kaleido-Sno. The restaurant has been expanding from snowballs into Cajun food to find their identity inn a changing downtown.
“We just need to find our little niche,” Jones said.