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In the wake of winter weather that shut down University operations on three separate days this semester, some Harvard Square businesses have experienced a downturn in sales and customer traffic this season. Business owners pointed to recent MBTA service suspensions as well as parking and travel bans as factors inhibiting employees and customers from travelling to the Square.
“Businesses have reported that it has been very difficult these last few weeks with the snow,” said Denise A. Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association.
Donez J. Cardullo, co-owner of Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, echoed Jillson’s sentiment.
“We’ve had days where we’ve just had zeros on the books, so we are definitely behind business-wise this year,” Cardullo said.
Restaurant Flat Patties reported a similar decline, with its earnings down 10 to 12 percent compared to those of the same period last year, according to Thomas J. Brush, the owner of Flat Patties and Felipe’s.
Concerned for their employees’ safety while traveling to work with MBTA service suspended, some local businesses closed, resulting in an above average number of closings this season.
“Historically, Cardullo’s does not close,” Cardullo said. “But with the fact that the T keeps closing and that’s how my staff gets to work, it is impossible for me to stay open.”
In addition, Mary D. Taylor, owner of Salt & Olive, said the parking ban, which ended last week, discouraged customers from travelling to and patronizing the Square.
“People are just not venturing out as much,” Taylor said. “The parking situation is a definite hindrance... Since the garages are totally full, if there are no metered spaces, there is no way to get traffic into the Square.”
However, for the few local stores and restaurants that did remain open leading up to the storms, winter storms marked a short-term bump in profits as customers stocked up on supplies.
“When there is a big storm being predicted, we [get] a lot of people coming in to buy beer, wine, cheese, and crackers—items to hunker down with,” Cardullo said.
Brush indicated that on the days with the worst weather, finding ways to bring in employees has resulted in high traffic.
“Even when the T was shut down, we picked up our employees and brought them in to stay open,” Brush said. “There were so few options out there on those days, and you still have a fairly large population of students and people living in or around the square, so there was a steady stream of business, practically non-stop.”
However, although small bumps in business preceding a storm have been beneficial, the winter weather has mostly had a negative impact, Cardullo said.
Business owners say they are hopeful that the worst of winter weather has passed.
“A lot of people have cabin fever. Business will absolutely come back,” Taylor said. “Once it gets over 20 degrees, people will be happy to go outside again.”
—Staff writer Samuel Vasquez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @svasquez14.
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