U students try to keep Lake Street shops afloat

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After struggling through last year’s road construction season, one shop on the west end of Lake Street went out of business.

This year, East Lake Street business owners worry they will need loans to avoid a similar fate.

Three University students hope their efforts will encourage community members to support local business in the coming months.

University students Erin Clapper, Joe Collins and Mike Copa worked with Latino business owners through a Spanish class to make 2,000 fliers promoting Lake Street restaurants, cafés and bookstores.

While Manny’s Tortas owner Manny Gonzalez said he isn’t worried about having to close his business, he realizes loans are a possibility.

“All the businesses on the corridor are worried,” Gonzalez said. “Hopefully they do the construction quick so we can survive and keep going.”

The construction, scheduled through November, is part of Lake Street’s first major reconstruction in 50 years.

Last year Jordan Stop Gas Station at Park Avenue and Lake Street closed because of lack of business and ongoing construction, said Lake Street Council Director Joyce Wisdom. Many other businesses moved, she said.

Gonzalez said the students did a “great job” with the fliers and it should pay off for his business this summer.

The project was part of a Spanish 3401 class titled Service Learning in the Chicano/Latino Community. Students had to complete 42 hours of community service throughout the semester, but the three students said they put in more than 50 hours.

Class instructor Kathleen Ganley said the students’ project took a lot of creativity and hard work.

“These three had to take a lot of initiative on their own,” she said.

Ganley said the class is designed to help students serve the community and learn about issues related to the Latino community.

She said the class gives students a chance to see how much Latinos contribute to society and break any stereotypes they might have.

“Nowadays there are tons of opportunities to use Spanish,” she said. “This class gives students a chance to get a foot in the door and hopefully they will continue to help out in Latino communities the rest of their lives.”

Clapper, a Spanish senior, said the project gave her the chance to experience all the good things about Lake Street.

“There are many great people here, the business owners are extremely nice and the food is excellent,” she said. “Once you come to Lake Street, you step into a little bit of Latino culture.”

Copa, an entrepreneurial studies junior, said volunteering also proved that the stereotypes about Lake Street are false.

“I had never been to Lake Street before this class and had only heard bad things about it,” he said. “It couldn’t be more the opposite — it’s a great place with great people.”