RiverWest businesses grow along with University of Windsor
'It’s a completely different store than even what it was 20 years ago'
As the University of Windsor has grown over the past 54 years, so has the business district surrounding it.
Domenic Giglio's father bought Giglio's Market 50 years ago and the family still owns and operates the grocery store and sub shop today. Giglio says the demographic in the area has drastically changed over the past half-century.
"It started out originally serving an ethnic Italian community in the west end that has kind of moved on since then," he said. "We have transitioned over to basically dealing with the people that live in the area now that are university students and university staff."
Giglio's Market, which opened as a neighbourhood grocery store, has now turned into a popular submarine sandwich and drink shop. Giglio says up to 60 per cent of business flow is university students. He can remember a time when it was only 25 per cent.
"It's a completely different store than even what it was 20 years ago," said Giglio. "You're dealing with things that people used to buy at one time at a store and no longer do now."
Foot traffic drives business
Giglio says it's not just his business that has had to change to meet the influx of students coming from around the world, the entire street looks different. He can recall a time where there were more retail stores than restaurants.
"There are actually 30 restaurants in what is a five or six block stretch … when I came to that total I was shocked," he said.
Giglio and his family also own the flower shop across from the market and student rental housing in the area.
The Liquid Library is a bar located right off campus on Wyandotte Street east. Owner Christopher Gale says he hung out in the university area while going to school in his 20s and jumped on the opportunity to buy the bar two and a half years ago.
"The foot traffic is amazing, you have 10-20,000 students a block away, it makes it pretty simple," he said.
Gale says he caters to the university crowd. He hosts events like varsity sports nights, fundraising events for the engineering program and he has kept prices low to match students budgets.
Gale acknowledges that Ouellette Ave is a popular spot for students but he wishes some of that nightlife could be closer to the university campus.
"I feel more things geared towards the students in the area would be great … there are only a couple of bars in this area there is very little events going on for the students," he said.
That being said, Gale says his business is doing well.
"This is our best year so far."