By: Nicholas Kolb
BROCKPORT, N.Y. – If you drive down Main Street in Brockport you will see many “now hiring” signs. Due to this, many businesses in Brockport are struggling to find workers.
According to the latest unemployment numbers in Monroe County. The current unemployment rate in Monroe County is 5.7%. That is down from the record high of 15.1% in 2020. Out of the labor force in Monroe County of 365,865 only 20,769 are currently unemployed.
Peter Apicella has owned and operated Java Junction Coffee and Bakery in Brockport since 1993. Java Junction is known for its onsite roasted gourmet coffees and teas. They also make fresh baked goods from scratch daily.
In normal years local businesses like Java Junction hire college students from neighboring SUNY Brockport to help them get through the busy season.
Apicella says this year has been tough, hardly any students are coming in to apply to fill the open positions.
“Prior to the pandemic we had over ten employees, now we are down to 3 full-time and 2 part-time.” said Apicella.
Java Junction is a business that is busy in the morning which offers college students a chance to work in the mornings prior to going to class. Yet, few have been applying.
“To be honest it just does not make any sense to me, we offer tips which puts employees well above what you can get working in fast food or a flat rate job,” said Apicella.
The staffing shortage is not just affecting Java Junction but many other local businesses in the food service industry as well.
Pizza shops such as Mark’s Pizzeria, Pizza Hut and Dominos are also affected by the staffing shortage. Each business displays help wanted signs, looking to hire all positions especially delivery drivers
Business owners in the Brockport community are having to make tough decisions to keep their business going.
“I am friends with many other local business owners in Brockport, everyone is struggling. It is getting to the point where some have to cut down their hours and days open. While others are even considering selling or closing their business all together.” Apicella said.
One of those businesses affected is Jimmy Z’s Plates and Shakes located on main street. Jimmy Z’s has been Brockport’s late-night spot since 2002, offering late night dining and ice cream to the residents of Brockport.
The restaurant used to be open seven days a week and open some days until 3 a.m. Now, according to their website, they are closed Monday and Tuesday and the latest they are open now is 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays due to staffing shortages.
One of the problems local businesses face when hiring college students is that many students at the college are commuters.
A junior at SUNY Brockport, Klarissa Sullivan, who is majoring in criminal justice. Sullivan works as a part-time cashier at a gas station in Hamlin near her home and like many other students she commutes to Brockport every day for class.
“Being a commuter it does not make sense for me to work in the Brockport area, I would like to work closer to my home.” said Sullivan
Businesses will have to adjust and adapt until the staffing shortage is over.
“It just does not make sense, but we will figure it out and get through it, we’re not going to let this stop us.” said Apicella