Downtown Blacksburg businesses ready for months without students

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) Blacksburg's population is down nearly 30,000 people after most Virginia Tech students went home for the summer. But local businesses are still pushing on without them.

"Once the kids go, we actually see a lot of the locals start to come downtown, they know you can get into restaurants a little bit easier, things aren't as crowded for parking,"
Michelle Raub, the owner of t.r. collection in downtown, said. "What we'll see is about the next week and a half, we start slowing down a little bit, which is good, it kind of resets things. But come the second week in June, we're pretty much right back on. You've got a lot of the folks starting to come look at the school, you have a lot of travelers, a lot of locals, a lot of visitors coming through. Then by July when orientation is here, we're full back on 100 percent."

But restaurants say those crowds come in for lunch or dinner.

The late-night atmosphere of Downtown Blacksburg tends to go when the students do.

"The general populous kind of gets a little older, so it's not as wild but it's still fun. It usually ends a little earlier than later," The Cellar Restaurant General Manager Thomas Novario said.

Even Diesel, the Blacksburg Planning Pup, has slower interactions with people. He draws people in to discuss Blacksburg's Comprehensive Plan of the next few decades. He has some slow days without students around, but now always.

Kali Casper is the Blacksburg Comprehensive Planner and Diesel's Owner

"Sometimes it's easy in the Summer to get folks engaged. There's a lot of activities, and festivals, and things that are always going on in the Downtown and out at First and Main and a lot of locations there's always things going on, and sometimes folks are more willing to come out when things aren't as crowded," Casper said.

Blacksburg hosts live music through the Summer, the Summer Solstice, and Stepping Out.

Raub sits on some of the downtown boards. She said it's things like those that are used to attract people throughout these months.

"We really are focusing on letting the locals know what is here, so doing more of an awareness campaign within our own town to let people know that they can come downtown, have lots of activities, spend several hours, and really have a good time," Raub said.

One of the biggest changes recently is Hokie orientation, when students and parents visit this area during the Summer.

Last year, the students were kept on campus for shopping and food, because there were so many.

So videos were developed to show new students about everything Downtown has to offer before they even start at Virginia Tech.