Business booms with arrival of parents

For most Yalies, ordering a $25 entree during dinner at Ibiza is not an everyday occurrence. But during Parents’ Weekend, the regular rules of spending do not apply.

The influx of parents into New Haven represents a boom in business for hotels, retailers and restaurants, with demand spiking and students’ senses of frugality disappearing as parents — with their greater disposable incomes — file into town. Hotels throughout New Haven especially feel the difference made by Parents’ Weekend, sometimes raising their rates by more than 30 percent and still experiencing an excess in demand.

Parents flood the University campus over the weekend. They doled out — along with affection, for their children — cash at many local retailers.
Christopher Young
Parents flood the University campus over the weekend. They doled out — along with affection, for their children — cash at many local retailers.

Andreina Cuevas, restaurant supervisor at the Omni New Haven Hotel — whose 306 rooms were all filled this weekend — said the change in activity during Parents’ Weekend represents a significant increase from other parts of the year.

“[The hotel] is booked two months before Parents’ Weekend,” Cuevas said. “And the rates go up — it depends how much — $150 or more. We have no rooms.”

Two Saturdays ago, the Omni charged $259 plus tax for a standard room; this past Saturday, they set the nightly rate at $338. The New Haven Hotel saw an even more dramatic increase: prices jumped from $129 two weekends ago to $250 last weekend — nearly a 100 percent change.

The John Davenport restaurant, the Omni’s 19th-floor restaurant, was booked for every meal over the weekend, although brunch was the most popular meal, hostess Randa Hassan said.

“For weekends — Saturday and Sunday morning — it’s fully booked,” Hassan said. “In the morning, we get crazy — about 100 to 200 people for breakfast and over 200 for Sunday brunch.”

The presence of hundreds of parents this weekend impacted other local businesses — everything from established storefronts to street vendors and smaller shops. Jay Adams, store manager of Trailblazer on Chapel Street, likened the Parents’ Weekend rush to the holiday sales season for other retailers.

“[Parents’ Weekend] is second either to the weekend [after] Thanksgiving or the week before Christmas,” Adams said. “We have a sale specifically for this weekend because we get a lot of people.”

The imminent arrival of winter encourages most parents to take advantage of this weekend to dress their kids for the cold season, Trailblazer manager Craig Aaker said.

“Of all the extent of Yale-associated traffic increases, Parents’ Weekend is the time that translates most into people coming into the store and needing stuff to buy,” Aaker said. “We can get up to three times the traffic — it’s an opportunity for parents to help their kids fill in the holes after a month of school.”

But the impact of Parents’ Weekend does not just affect businesses that benefit from the impending cold weather. Vendor Amiri Jackie, who sells jewellery on the corner of Chapel and College streets every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, said Parents’ Weekend provides a last burst in sales before the weather changes.

“We get a lot more people — I would say for us, about a one-third to one-half increase,” Jackie said. “This is the best because parents are here for different reasons — the kids have been here for a month and [they] are looking to treat them. It’s more relaxed than freshman orientation, and they buy things for their kids — and themselves.”

Other stores, however, said Parents’ Weekend does not impact their business as dramatically.

Andrea Anato, an employee at Atticus Bookstore and Cafe on Chapel Street, said the cafe saw a huge increase in its restaurant patronage as parents treated their kids to non-dining hall food, but the bookstore experienced a minimal change in sales.

The sheer number of parents and students who come for Parents’ Weekend, relative to New Haven’s small size, makes the weekend an important opportunity for local merchants, Aaker said.

“I think that has to be true in any college town,” he said. “Not in a huge town like New York, but in a town like New Haven the influx of people is certain to make a difference in retails and restaurants.”

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