Whether they head there to study, dine or catch a movie with friends, Tufts students frequently travel into Davis Square. It’s no wonder, since its dozens of restaurants and businesses are all just a short walk or Joey ride from campus.
Tufts students may benefit from the proximity of Davis Square, but may not be aware of how much Davis businesses are affected by Tufts students.
Frequently ranked as one of the best cafes in the greater Boston area, Diesel Cafe is a bustling coffee shop on Elm Street.
“The surrounding universities definitely play a role in how busy we are, and we have our strongest relationship with Tufts since it’s so close by,” Diesel Cafe Administrative Assistant Rebecca Mitchell told the Daily in an email. “We see noticeable rushes when Tufts has Parents Weekend, orientations, moving weekend and things like that.”
Called “one of the square’s big success stories,” by Boston.com, Dave’s Fresh Pasta has been an institution in Davis Square for over 10 years.
“A significant percentage of our business … is either directly or indirectly related to Tufts,” owner Dave Jick said. “So Tufts is very important to us.”
However, though Tufts students contribute a good percentage of Davis’ visitors and customers, businesses do not dramatically suffer when the majority of them leave for summer vacation.
“The warm weather brings in lots of people who are looking for something thirst-quenching,” Mitchell said. “And there are more festivals that bring people out. We see more vacationing families in the summer, too.”
Somerville may be a college town, but a vibrant local scene and a steady stream of tourists tend to keep businesses afloat without college students, according to Mitchell.
“When students leave for the summer, our business often picks up from tourists and vacationers, and then when the tourist season dies down, the cafe is filled with study groups and professors,” she said.
The students who remain on campus over the summer, though, certainly help.
“It definitely slows down,” Jick said. “But it’s not as dramatic as you might think because of the summer program and because the weather is good, so I think those students up there are a little bit more likely to come on down.”
Tufts students also affect what businesses serve. Dave’s Fresh Pasta notices an increase in sandwich sales and catering for on-campus events once the fall semester starts. Diesel sees many clients staying later to study, often until closing time.
In a recent post on the Diesel Cafe blog, Jess Brasil wrote about ambiguous feelings towards college students returning to the Boston area. She discussed the viral video posted on Facebook by Medford resident, Kim Costa, in which Costa expresses her displeasure with college students in the Boston area.
Although the arrival of college students can be upsetting to locals, Brasil asserted that Boston’s college students are an important part of the community.
“Sure, there is a little Kim Costa in all of us,” she said in the blog post. “But as far as we’re concerned, Tufts and other nearby universities are part of our vibe, and we welcome you with open booths.”
According to a 2013 article in the Boston Globe, since the Red Line station opened in 1986, Davis Square has been developing and thriving.
“In Davis Square, the opening of the Red Line station in 1986 sparked a remarkable transformation,” the article said. “New residents flocked in. Bars and restaurants sprang up to welcome them. Housing construction surged. On Friday nights, Davis hums with activity.”
This new activity in Davis Square and Somerville made it one of UTNE’s “15 Hippest Places to Live” in 1997. Somerville was also ranked one of the top five “World’s most hipster cities” this month in Metro New York.
Tufts students, it seems, do have a strong impact on local businesses. Davis Square, however, is still able to thrive on its own development, reputation and location.