Students returning to Ohio University in late August will see two fewer restaurants, but one franchise expanding onto Court Street – D.P. Dough.
Earlier this week, signs and construction crews confirmed what a construction worker hinted at weeks ago: D.P. Dough is adding a South Court Street location, in addition to its longtime spot on Richland Avenue. The business is opening in a storefront on 19 S. Court St., most recently occupied by Lady B’s and before that a series of other restaurants in recent years.
The Athens NEWS reached out to the D.P. Dough general manager on Tuesday, but did not receive a response by the paper’s Wednesday print deadline.
Michelle Oestrike , president of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, said a recognized and established brand moving onto Court Street is a positive development.
“With D.P. Dough moving in there, it’s a good thing because they’re an established business; they have a name for themselves,” Oestrike said. “A lot of their customers are delivery based, so they’re going to pick up extra foot traffic now they’re uptown, but still keep that delivery business.”
D.P. Dough is a delivery-based calzone franchise founded in the 1983, and has primarily independent franchise locations.
According to the D.P. Dough website, the Richland Avenue restaurant “is independently owned and operated by Dough King, LLC.” It doesn’t list the new uptown location, probably since it’s not open yet.
In other uptown restaurant news, Franco’s Pizza Place, 42 S. Court St., and Lotsa Stone-Fired Pizza, 14 S. Court St., both have closed in recent weeks.
Nobody from Franco’s could be reached for comment by the Wednesday print deadline, but Cornwell Properties confirmed with The Athens NEWS that the storefront is for rent.
Anthony DiGangi, chief operating officer of Lotsa Pizza, confirmed that the business had closed due to poor sales.
He cited the summer lull in foot traffic on Court Street as the cause of a major reduction in profits for the location.
“This summer was a lot worse than last summer, and we’re hearing that from other businesses as well — there really isn’t much of a draw to Court Street in the summer,” DiGangi said. “Although business could be good during the school year, the profits get wiped away during the summer.”
DiGangi said closing for the summer is not a cost-effective solution to the problem of operating a business in a college town. Lotsa would have had to hire all new staff and manager, and train these new employees, increasing the overall cost – without generating any revenue, he said.
“The cost to reopen and train is a big drain on money,” DiGangi said. “Because you have to hire about 25 to 30 people, retrain, train people, those costs are pretty high.”
DiGangi said Lotsa is primarily a college-centric restaurant, so they are not unfamiliar with the nature of college towns. However, he said Athens is particularly bad when it comes to the seasonal drop-off in customers.
“We’re very familiar with the difference in sales in the summer, but for some reason, in the other markets, we still see decent enough sales still there,” DiGangi said.
Oestrike also confirmed that Athens has a smaller population in the summer compared to similar college areas.
“You really have to figure out if this is the best place for your business, knowing that so much is dependent on our transient population,” Oestrike said. “Our permanent population is much, much smaller than some other college towns’ permanent populations.”
DiGangi also said a factor could be uptown parking, which recently underwent some major changes.
“I know when I went out there, it was weird because you have to pay to park all the way to 8 p.m.,” he said. “It’s a real turnoff that people have to pay an extra dollar to get a pizza from Lotsa.”
Oestrike agreed that the perception exists that parking is unavailable in the uptown area.
“There is parking available; people aren’t utilizing the parking garage,” she said. “I’m one of them. I’d rather park on the street.”