When WSU students leave town

Pups n’ Cups grand opening delayed due to statewide shutdown; Rockstar Body Bar now operates at 25 percent capacity



CJ Robert, Pups n’ Cups owner, said she loses about 75 to 80 of her business during the holidays when students travel home for break.

JENAE LAXSON, Evergreen roots editor

Small business owners in Pullman experienced a decrease in revenue when fewer WSU students came back to campus in the fall. Now that winter break is fast approaching, shop owners are preparing for even fewer visitors.

CJ Robert, Pups & Cups Pullman owner, said students create an influx in the population, causing her business revenue to be seasonal. When students leave for the holidays, her business makes about 75 to 80 percent less than it would in a typical year.

Pups & Cups shut down operations in March, Robert said. Besides offering curbside pick up, the shop never reopened because they are moving to a new location, which has been their primary focus during the pandemic.

Robert scheduled the grand opening for the new location in December, but because of the upcoming shutdown the date will be reconsidered, she said.

The landlord for the new location has not asked for rent throughout the pandemic, Robert said.

Pups & Cups will continue to offer curbside service, Robert said. She is working to set up a delivery service through Mr. Delivery, so everyone can have access to their local and freshly made products.

She said Pups & Cups partnered with Jacobs Bakery from Uniontown, Washington to deliver fresh pastries to the shop. 

Robert said Katie Rogers, general manager of Pups & Cups, will make in-house pastries that are gluten-free, vegan and made with alternative flours, like almond flour.

Robert opened Pups & Cups two and a half years ago. She said she will never franchise her business because she doesn’t want to lose the quaint small-town feel. She only wants to feature locally-sourced products.

“We really want to support local businesses because you lose the small-town feel and then it is just quantity over quality,” she said.

Ruthanna Willey, Rockstar Body Bar owner, said the salon relies heavily on students, which makes up about 75 percent of the business. This year has been like no other, Willey said.

Locals are aware her business caters to students, so people do not want to frequent areas where younger people visit, she said. It is also difficult to reassure the students that they are still welcome.

Willey said despite customer concerns, the facility is one of the cleanest because of the type of services it offers, including waxing and tanning.

The salon was completely shut down at one point and now operates at 25 percent capacity, she said. 

Willey has an immediate family member who is in the high-risk category. Because of this, she goes the extra mile to take the proper precautions, she said.

“At this point, we are just fighting for our right to be standing at the end of all of this,” she said.

The salon was founded in 2008, and Willey took ownership in 2019. 

Rockstar Body Bar is still offering services and people can purchase products, such as sunless spray tan, skincare and gift certificates. 

Willey said her favorite service is the tanning bed. Five minutes is all that is needed for a boost of natural vitamin D, she said.

“This is such a controversial thing, but the vitamin D that people get from tanning and tanning beds is something that is absolutely irreplaceable, especially in these colder months when we aren’t seeing as much sun,” she said. 

Willey said Pullman residents should consider shopping small and local first because there are several unique shops and products around.