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Area eateries buzzing with business

MORGANTOWN – Local eateries admitted to having seen an increase in business over the last several weeks. Though, whether the escalation is a direct result of West Virginia’s vaccine rollout and mask mandate updates or a final swell before the seasonal summer sink is up for debate.

Grace Hutchens, owner of Zeke’s Breakfast & Bakes and Apothecary Ale House & Café downtown, said Zeke’s was established less than a year ago, but Apothecary has been around for quite some time — so she has a better frame of reference for Apothecary than for Zeke’s.

As far as Zeke’s goes, Hutchens hasn’t noticed a significant drop in visitors, even after a large portion of Morgantown’s population left when West Virginia University’s spring semester ended. Weekends there have remained consistent.

Over at Apothecary, Hutchens has witnessed a slow but steady month-by-month increase since the beginning of 2021. Many new faces have been seen at Apothecary, as well as old regulars returning.

“[The increase] has given us a little more flexibility in what we want to do, kind of getting back into our old ways of buying what we want to buy,” Hutchens said.

Additionally, Apothecary has been able to open up more seating and regain the vibe and ambience it had before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another downtown joint, The Grind, has had a similar experience, according to barista and shift lead Kelsey Archer.

She said the café has seen a bit of an increase in visitors recently, but is approaching its annual decrease in business with WVU students gone from the area. So far, the increase in business the café hasn’t been significant.

Archer doesn’t think the increase has anything to do with Gov. Jim Justice’s recent repeal of the state’s mask mandate, as The Grind still requires face masks until June 20. By then, all staff members will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, she does believe the prevalence of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout may be a factor.

“People are becoming more comfortable. We’re seeing regulars that we haven’t seen in well over a year in the past couple of months. Everybody’s feeling a bit more comfortable and ready to enter the world again, I’d say,” Archer said.

On the other side of Morgantown, near Star City’s Edith Barill Riverfront Park, Terra Café has had a similar experience in the past couple of months.

Shift manager Kristen Mohammadi said the business has had an increase in visitors since the vaccine rollout began in West Virginia. Now that it’s summer, though, the café has lost some of his college-aged business.

“We’re still pretty busy in comparison, definitely, to last year when things were just to-go,” she said.

Mohammadi thinks this uptick can only be positive for Terra Café. The establishment is excited to be busy, stay busy, have patrons back and be able to resume hosting small events.

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