Several Garden City downtown businesses buy goods from one another. They use these items from other merchants to make food, soap and beer to resell. By helping each other, these merchants are helping the downtown to thrive. They are revitalizing their community.
“When our neighbors are doing well, we are all doing well,” said Alicia Gian-Maciulis, the owner of Roots Juice Co. & Wellness Studio. “We don’t want empty store fronts. We want unique stores and restaurants so people come here for a unique experience. We want it to be experiential.”
There are 140 businesses in the Garden City downtown corridor, with 10 new businesses opening last year and five more in 2019.
“In 2018 our sales tax was up 3 percent from the previous year in downtown,” said Shelia Crane, the executive director of Downtown Vision. “Although our final sales tax numbers for 2019 will not be in until January, we would expect a similar trend for 2019.”
The sales tax revenue goes back into the community. By buying products in town, consumers are supporting their city. Downtown storefronts and restaurants supply jobs, advertise and support school athletics and drama. Local businesses have a greater impact in growing the local economy.
“There’s a huge investment in any downtown that already exists in your community already,” said Kathy La Plante, senior program officer for National Main Street Center. “It would cost millions of dollars to replace it. It’s where you’re most historic and unique buildings are.”
According to La Plante, for every dollar spent at a local business, 68 cents stays in the community. She said the local input from chain stores is drastically lower. Only about 15 to 25 cents of each dollar these businesses take in stays locally. Of course, buying products on the internet brings the community far less money — if any at all.
“The businesses in this downtown district understand that they really have to capitalize on the consumer,” said Lona DuVall, president of Finney County Economic Development Corporation. “Cross marketing is really important for them to get more exposure to more consumers.”
Along with the benefits of supporting one another through the sale of products, is the benefit of friendship and camaraderie. Erica Kuhlmeier, the owner of Flourish Herbals and Aromatherapy, usually walks over to SageHouse Bath & Body once a week and discusses new ideas. The two owners' brainstorming led to Jessica Gallardo, of SageHouse, giving workshops in soapmaking and candlemaking in January at Nourish.
“We (the storeowners) all feel like family,” Kuhlmeier said.
The downtown of any city is where community relationships and family memories can be created — including during parades. Every city across the country has big box stores on their fringes, but a strong downtown shows off the community pride and character. The downtown demonstrates each town and city’s uniqueness.
“It’s huge to cooperate with the other downtown businesses because we are a tight knit community,” Rob Gardiner, front of house manager of Flat Mountain Brewhouse. “It gives us the opportunity to put out really inventive products.”
Once a month, the merchants in Garden City get together and discuss ways to invigorate Main Street. The influx of big box stores, chain restaurants and internet sales are always a battle. They realize they must excel at both product and customer service. Consequently, they use their joint resources to advertise and sponsor events.
“What really attracts businesses (to the community) is the quality of life and the quality of investments,” said Manuel Pastor, professor of sociology and American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. “We need to bring people together.”
Buying from One Another
Many merchants in Garden City’s downtown are taking this shop local trend one step further. They are buying products from the store next to them or down the street or around the corner. Roots Juice Co. pressed 100 pounds of raspberries for Flat Mountain Beer.
“Instead of using syrups, they used fresh juice,” said Gian-Maciulis, the owner of Roots. “People got the health benefit as well as the flavor.”
Whether it is buying a product for resale or to make a beer or soap from, downtown merchants understand that the more people they bring in, the more their neighbor benefits and vice versa.
“We’re always open for new things,” said Mia Bernal, manager of Patrick Dugan’s Coffee House. “We work together to try to target the people who are willing to come downtown and shop.”
Patrick Dugan’s supplied Flat Mountain Brewhouse with 10 gallons of coffee to place in their beer. They bought cake pops from Not Your Mama’s Cake Pops to sell at events, and next year, they are planning to work with SageHouse Body & Bath.
Several of these businesses use The Good Sport, AJ Graphics and Colleen’s Trophies, Awards & Gifts for producing their business cards, T-shirts and coffee and travel mugs.
“If we can help each other, then we all do better,” Gian-Maciulis said. “I feel like downtown does a really good job at supporting each other.”
Main Street Project Starting Up Again in Kansas
After seven years of hiatus, the Kansas Main Street Program is back in Kansas. Scott Sewell began his work as director of the KMSP in late October. Since 1985, the organization launched 25 Main Street revitalizations in Kansas communities before the state-sponsored program ended in 2012. Russell was the first launch.
This year, Sewell plans to help re-energize the 25 approved Kansas Main Streets, starting with a meeting in two weeks for those downtown leaders. He hopes to start an application process next fall for new cities wishing to join KMSP. Sewell said some of the successful projects include Garden City, Emporia, El Dorado, Hutchinson, Phillipsburg and Dodge City. Many of the 25 Main Streets are doing well, Sewell said.
The Main Street project focuses on being a place where storeowners can discuss issues, come together for promotional materials and storefront design issues, bring in new businesses and create new jobs. KMSP serves as both a cheerleader and educator. They also conduct several training sessions for the downtown district’s business owners.
“I think it’s (Main Street Program) the most effective economic tool out there, especially in rural communities. Dollar for dollar, you can’t get more bang for your buck,” Sewell said. “The downtown is the heart of the community.”