Posted: 12:00 a.m. Thursday, April 4, 2013

Businesses boom, crash in Oxford

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Uptown Oxford photo
The Uptown Oxford business district has seen in influx of new shops over the past year.

By Sean Carney

Contributing Writer

OXFORD — The fluctuating population of Oxford presents a challenge for new and existing businesses as they try to survive and thrive.

Businesses have to figure out a way to reach the college-age demographic during the school year, while still maintaining success when thousands of Miami University students leave town over breaks and summer vacation.

“In order to be successful, businesses must figure out a way to deal with the ebb and flow of the population in Oxford,” said Alan Kyger, the director of economic development for Oxford.

The business landscape in Oxford is constantly changing, but Kyger pointed out that there were 19 openings in 2012, compared to 14 closings, ownership changes and moves.

“It seems that here in Oxford, people tend to pay more attention to businesses that close instead of businesses that open,” Kyger said. “But I promise that more businesses are giving Oxford a go than leaving it.”

In order to gain traction, new and existing businesses must find ways to get their products noticed.

“The biggest way that businesses get themselves marketed is through word of mouth,” Kyger said. “Some businesses also use email blasts and the Miami Student (newspaper), but most of the time, word of mouth is the biggest factor.”

Considering all of the social media that has become an enormous part of the lives of college students, businesses strive to be talked about. Merchants have to make sure students know who they are and produce something that college kids will want often enough to turn a profit.

“Product is a big quotient,” Kyger said. “Service is also extremely important. Is someone there to greet you at the door and make you feel welcome?”

It can be difficult for businesses to get a foothold in Oxford. For example, the recently closed Thanksgiving Dinner restaurant opened in Oxford in the fall of 2011 and could not make enough money to stay open. Kyger offered some insight as to why this might have happened.

“At Thanksgiving Dinner, the problem was not necessarily poor quality of food,” he said. “It was an issue of selling a product that had too narrow of an appeal. Honestly, how many times per week or per month do you really want Thanksgiving food?”

One key to being a successful business in Oxford is to create a product that students and residents will like and will buy multiple times per week. Orange Leaf, the new frozen yogurt location that just opened on High Street, hopes that it has found that balance.

“We offer many more flavors than the average frozen yogurt place,” said Elizabeth Begley, manager at Orange Leaf. “Most frozen yogurt joints only offer two or three flavors. We offer a wide variety of options and toppings so people never get bored.”

Frozen yogurt also provides an alternative to ice cream that students seem to really love, she said.

“Business has been great and we’re always busy,” Begley said. “Students and residents seem to love the fact that they have an alternative to regular ice cream that in itself offers so many different combinations.”

Another unique beverage place has just opened in the space previously occupied by Thanksgiving Dinner. Teapioca, a traditional Chinese bubble tea and coffee store, has drawn a lot of interest from the large international student community in Oxford.

“Business has been going really well so far,” said Allie Dudash, who has been working at Teapioca since it opened. “We’ve been getting a really positive response from both international students and domestic students. We are trying to get more Americans in the store, but so far we are really happy with the response.”

With coffee so popular among the student population, there is obviously tons of competition from places like Starbucks and Kofenya. Dudash, however, believes that Teapioca can continue to be successful because of the product that they offer.

“We are the only place in Oxford to offer Chinese bubble tea and milk tea,” she said. “You can get coffee anywhere. We are very unique in what we offer.”

Dudash said the store is working to grow its clientele and get a more diverse cro in the door.

“We’re still working on getting the word out,” she said. “Having our name on our cups helps, but we really have faith that our product will speak for itself,” she said. “Being new also helps, as people want to come in and try us out.”

Oxford is not just food and beverage.

Bluetique, a new clothing store on High Street, is also trying to make a name for itself. The store overtook the building that was previously held by Frame and Save, which closed in February 2012 and moved to College Corner. In a market where many students simply do not have the money to buy designer clothes, Bluetique takes a “cheap chic” perspective.

“We’re really happy with how business has been going,” said Ashley Keeton, manager at Bluetique. “We’ve been getting lots of business from students, and they’re really spreading the word about what we have to offer.”

The store buys entirely original pieces and sells them for discounted prices, which gives the store a very unique selection of clothing that will not break the bank for students, parents, and Oxford residents.

“Our price-point is perfect,” Keeton said. “Students and moms alike love it because they are able to get more stuff for the same amount of money they would spend at other stores.”

The discounted prices and wide variety of designer brands that the store offers enables and encourages students to buy multiple products from the store, as Bluetique’s prices for high-end clothing are very difficult to beat. However, with a T.J. Maxx opening April 14 in Oxford, Bluetique will have some serious competition.

Keeton says she’s not concerned.

“We have much more unique pieces than T.J. Maxx can offer,” she said. “We also do things like give away pearls, nail polish, and other basics. We do so much more than sell clothing, and T.J. Maxx simply can’t do things like that. All we need to do is continue to fill the niche we’ve been filling, and everything is going to be fine.”

Once a business survives for a couple of years, it often gains a recognizable brand name that can help to continue to bring in new customers.

“Take Bruno’s (Pizza), for example,” Kyger said of the High Street business. “When you’re Uptown late at night and someone says they want to go to Bruno’s, you immediately know what and where they are talking about. The same goes for a place like Bagel and Deli.”


CHANGING LANDSCAPE

Last year, 19 businesses opened in Oxford, while 14 closed, moved or changed ownership.

OPENINGS IN 2012

Feb. 2012: Anytime Fitness (Locust)

Feb. 2012: Walker Shoes and Apparel (Uptown, changed owners)

Mar. 2012: Furnish (CCP*)

Apr. 2012: Krispy Kutz Barber Shop (Locust)

May 2012: La Piñata Mexican (Uptown)

Jun. 2012: Oxford Vitamins (Locust)

Jul. 2012: Yum Yum Authentic Chinese (Uptown)

Jul. 2012: Spring Street Treats (Locust)

Aug. 2012: Alma Mater Designs (Uptown)

Aug. 2012: Blink Boutique (Uptown)

Aug. 2012: Moonshine (Uptown, moved from Locust)

Aug. 2012: Oxford Physical Therapy (Stewart Square, moved from Locust)

Aug 2012: Bluetique (Uptown)

Aug. 2012: O’Pub (Uptown)

Sep. 2012: Techeadz Computer Services (Locust)

Sep. 2012: Off the Beaten Path Expansion (Uptown)

Nov. 2012: Orange Leaf (Uptown)

Nov. 2012: Hampton Inn (Stewart Square)

Dec. 2012: Chaco Credit Union (CCP*, moved to Somerville Bank site)

Dec. 2012: Oxford Coffee Company (Locust)

CLOSINGS IN 2012

Jan. 2012: Hibbett Sports (CCP*)

Feb. 2012: Frame and Save (Uptown)

Feb. 2012: Walker Shoes and Apparel (Uptown, changed owners)

Mar. 2012: Darbar India (Uptown)

May 2012: Taj Mahal II (Uptown)

May 2012: Panama Red Tattoo (Uptown)

May 2012: Spring Street Vitamins (Locust)

Aug. 2012: Moonshine (Locust, moved to Uptown)

Aug. 2012: Karisma (Uptown)

Aug. 2012: Oxford Physical Therapy (Locust, moved to Stewart Square)

Nov. 2012: Lucky Eddy’s Tattoos (Uptown, owner passed away)

Nov. 2012: Princess Theater (Uptown)

Dec. 2012: Thanksgiving Dinner (Uptown)

Dec. 2012: Chaco Credit Union (CCP, moved to Somerville Bank site)

*CCP - College Corner Pike

 
 

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