New patrons fill void left by school move

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 19, 2001

The bell would ring, and moments later a tidal wave of students would pour out of the old high school.

Monday, February 19, 2001

The bell would ring, and moments later a tidal wave of students would pour out of the old high school. Some would race to their cars, some would loiter in the park, but another large group would head the two blocks to downtown for pizza.

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When Albert Lea High School moved to its location just off Hammer Road, a few downtown businesses braced for the impact of losing the student lunchtime crowd.

In the nearly three months since the move, these businesses have seen a quieter, more traditional clientele replace the high school students.

Jake’s Pizza was one of the first restaurants students encountered on their walk toward Broadway. Many would stop in for a quick slice, and, on some days, the small restaurant would quickly fill to overflowing.

&uot;What we’ve found is that there were people who avoided us during lunch because of the students,&uot; said Lynelle Anderson of Jake’s. &uot;We used to get phone calls from customers who wanted to know if the high school kids had left yet. Some people don’t like the crowds.&uot;

Anderson said Jake’s is still busy over lunch, and the downtown business people are returning.

&uot;We figured it would get quieter after they left, and we do miss the kids. Most of them were polite and respectful. But, we are happy to see some other folks stopping in,&uot; said Anderson.

A Taste of the Big Apple, a New York-style pizza place just around the corner from Clark Street on Broadway, also sold a healthy amount of pizza to students. Manager Karen McParland, said her lunch hours are less crowded, but she has also noticed a growing number of downtown workers stopping in.

&uot;The kids were great, but in many ways it’s less work for us. The pace is much more manageable,&uot; McParland said. &uot;This isn’t a big place -&160;it could get extremely crowded in here.&uot;

McParland said her restaurant has adjusted with no trouble. In fact, she won over a number of students with her pizza. Now they order whole pies after school and in the evenings, she said.

&uot;We don’t depend on lunch as much anyway. Most of our business comes in the evenings. &uot;

Perhaps the most noticeable difference since the high school’s move is at Youth for Christ – the Rock.

Many students would head to the Rock to play pool, listen to music and socialize and eat pizza from Domino’s. Director Greg Gudal said it wasn’t uncommon to have literally hundreds of kids streaming in.

&uot;We enjoyed it, and we have plenty of space. It got a little crazy at times, but we really miss them,&uot; Gudal said.

Though their has been a drop in revenues from concessions, Gudal said he never viewed the high school lunch crowd as a money making opportunity.

&uot;We’ve had to cut down on some of our employee’s hours, but we aren’t looking for profit. For 10 years, we gave the kids a safe place to socialize during lunchtime. I think we made a lot of connections in that time,&uot; Gudal said.