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OSU Students Return and Help Create Micro-Economy On North High Street

Classes start Wednesday for more than 50,000 Ohio State University students. Many of them arrived in Columbus during the week-end. And their arrival brought smiles to the faces of some campus area merchants. But, before students hit the books on Wednesday they'll be spending lots of money, especially on North High Street.

The class of 2011 arrived in Columbus on Sunday and thousands headed to North High Street for books, smokes, candles, tee-shirts, sandwiches, and coffee. North High Street from about 10th Avenue to Lane Avenue is what some economists call a "micro-economy." O-S-U students and High Street businesses depend on and need each other economically. Among the arrivals on Sunday is freshman Matt Lacer of Mansfield.

"I bought a sub at Subway." Matt Lacer says he paid $8.00 for a foot-long sandwich and a drink at the Subway near 14th and High. Multiply the price of his lunch by tens of thousands during the next ten weeks, add book and dorm decor purchases, and one begins to realize the economic impact on North High Street merchants. Lacer says he lacked enough cash for all his books so he's going to shop around a bit more. But, a lower price might be tough to find. Demand for textbooks and course materials right now is high. Justin Glasgow of Steubenville, was carrying his purchases back to his west 10th Avenue dorm.

"Well I just have the books right now. I'd already bought most of the notebooks and stuff my way. (Q:Did the books set you back a little) A little over $400, yeah." Says Glasgow.

Glasgow and Lacer had been in Columbus for less than six hours before they made their trip to North High street. Merchant Shelly Purks at the Import House on East 13th Avenue says the arrival of fall quarter means $20,000 to $30,000 per month more in sales at her store.

"Well we've been here for approximately 16 or 17 years and certainly every fall is great. It means our business is going to double, if not three times." Says Purks. The Import House sells tapestry, incense candles, and some clothing items. Purks says students often get a free lesson in capitalism when they visit.

"And at least in this store they kind of feel like they want to bargain the price down with you, which you know, they never would do at Target or a major place. But, we actually are paying alot more. We're not a multi-national coporation so its harder to kind of get them to realize what exactly this capitalistic system is and who benefits and you know, that we're not marking our things up 500%, You know." Says Purks.

Back on the sidewalk, a panhandler who refused to give his name is asking passers-by if they can spare some change. The man in a plaid flannel shirt, a Chicago White Sox baseball cap and tennis shoes smiles when he sees student faces return to the area.

"My experience is they're more generous than the older people. Older people look at you and say 'hey, get a job' they have no idea why you're out here and everything. And the students just accept you for what you are and where you are and hey here, take this or let me buy you something to eat." The panhandler says he's been begging since February after his social security disability payments were cut. Near 14th and High, the "College Town" Store offers a quick lesson on economic demand. Sales Associate, Shannon Titus, has placed $17.99 sweatshirts near the front door. The Dark Blue shirts feature a maize colored wolverine who appears to be choking. In fact the word "CHOKE" is spelled out in big letters across the front of the shirt.

"When Appalachian State beat Michigan we had a ton of phone calls about do we carry this tee-shirt. And actually our general merchandiser, he buys for the entire region for our company, saw them on a website and so he went ahead and stocked them for us. So, we have two different kinds. They just say the score and its just kind of like a fun thing. And everyone loves them so we've been selling them like crazy.(Q: So are we going to see alot of CHOKE" tee-shirts on campus?)It looks that way. The stacks are getting sort of low." Says Titus.

Tom Borgerding WOSU News