Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Do Cape Girardeau businesses survive the summertime 'slow season'

Sunday, August 20, 2023
SEMO students and the Cape Girardeau community celebrate Cinco De Mayo at Burrito-Ville with live music and Mexican-American comfort classics. This event was one of the last ones Burrito-Ville held before students traveled back home and the “slow season” began.
Photo by Kate Haussman

Whether a small business has been around for 23 years or one; when students leave for the summer, small businesses in college towns struggle to keep profit coming in. These small businesses that surround SEMO’s campus have become dependent on college students because the students have helped them flourish.

SEMO was founded in 1873, and over the last 150 years, the population of Cape Girardeau has increased from 4,000 to almost 40,000 people, with an additional 90,000 people commuting daily to work, shop or to receive an education, according to the City of Cape Girardeau.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 97.5% of businesses in Cape Girardeau have less than 500 employees; meaning most businesses in Cape Girardeau are small, locally owned businesses.

The department chair of Accounting, Economics and Finance David Yaskewich said small businesses create job opportunities for Cape Girardeau and neighboring towns.

“They are providing income to people,” Yaskewich said. “So if they are creating jobs through that process then that would be an additional value [to the economy].”

Local businesses are not only supplying jobs but they are providing valued goods or service to Cape Girardeau.

“If they are fulfilling a need, an economist would say they are creating value,” Yaskewich said. “The willingness of people paying some amount of money above the cost of production of that product or service [is how] markets create value.”

When small businesses no longer have a need to fill; they tend to struggle to keep people coming in and their doors open. Unfortunately, even Cape Girardeau businesses have experience with this issue.

After having two brutal summers, Speakeyzy Coffee Co. decided to permanently close its doors earlier this summer due to slow business.

“The slowing of the economy, increased prices and lack of volume of customers; especially in the summer [caused the closing of Speakeyzy],” Suzanne Hightower said.

Speakeyzy owner Suzanne Hightower tried to implement new amenities including outdoor seating and an online rewards program after Speakeyzy’s first hard summer. These changes were not enough to bring in the business needed.

“It makes me very sad to have to close [Speakeyzy],” Hightower said. “The customers I had were very loyal, but it wasn’t enough to keep it going; I was taking too much of a loss.”

Speakeyzy is not the only business in Cape Girardeau that experiences slower business during the summer months, but some have learned to enjoy the slower season instead of fearing it.

Burrito-Ville, a locally owned business was opened in 2000 by owner Justin Denton, still faces the summertime “slow season” even after 23 years of business.

General manager Paige Garner has worked at Burrito-Ville for over 13 years after attending SEMO as a student. She said being slow during the summer isn’t always a bad thing. Garner said she enjoys the break summer brings after such a busy school year.

“If anything, I’m more excited,” Garner said. “It’s our time to slow down and have some fun. The school year is fun, but the school year is [also] very fast-paced.”

Garner said Burrito-Ville tries to fill its summer with exciting events and collaborations to keep customers coming and going.

“We always do a bit of community outreach; one way or another throughout the year,” Garner said. “But during the summer we are able to get a little more hands-on, and focus [on connecting with the community].”

Burrito-Ville also has promotions and unique menu options to keep their guests walking through the door during the summer.

With the start of the semester, thousands of SEMO students will be flooding back to Cape Girardeau to attend college this year. The rush of people will bring great income for the small business near SEMO’s campus.