Small Shops, Big Impact

Amy Baptista, left, and Jennifer White browse merchandise at The Workroom. Located in the Douglas Design District, The Workroom is well-known for its Wichita items created by local artists. Photography by Scott Elpers

Amy Baptista, left, and Jennifer White browse merchandise at The Workroom. Located in the Douglas Design District, The Workroom is well-known for its Wichita items created by local artists. Photography by Scott Elpers

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

    It’s always a challenge to find that unique, interesting item - whether it’s a gift for the holidays, a special occasions or for your own enjoyment.
    In several Wichita shops, you’ll find either locally or regionally made products, which is one of the ways you can score a unique gift. But small shops make a big impact in other ways, say Wichita business owners, along with the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. The latter has even created a flyer on the top 10 reasons you should shop local.
    “I believe it’s important to shop local on many levels,” says Valerie Reimers, co-owner of Lucinda’s, a popular local boutique in Old Town that Reamer and her husband started 15 years ago. 
    According to the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 stays in the community, while only $43 of that same $100 spent at a national chain will stay in Wichita.
    Another key reason to shop local is that it keeps the community vibrant, which in turn attracts residents and out-of-towners.
    Several popular local stores are found in four Wichita shopping districts – Old Town, the Douglas Design District, Delano and downtown Wichita. Many of those businesses, ranging from eateries and specialty boutiques to the Wichita Art Museum Store, offer special discounts on what’s known as 2nd Saturday. You can support local merchants and save money by buying a 2nd Saturday shopping bag or keycard for $5 that can be used the second Saturday of the month for special deals with the participating businesses. You won’t even need to deal with parking if you hop on the free River City trolley to shop the Douglas Design District, stretching along Douglas from Washington to Oliver, which generally runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the second Saturday. Catch the Q-line, another free trolley service, to shop the Delano and Old Town, which runs during peak evening hours Monday through Saturday, as well as during the day on Saturday.
    “Anything local or local-pride related is doing well,” says Reimers, a sentiment echoed by Janelle King, owner of The Workroom in the Douglas Design District, a well-known purveyor of Wichita flag items and creations by local artists.
    “It’s so encouraging that people are really rallying around that,” Reimers says, of the support shown for local items.
    “We have the largest selection of Wichita flag merchandise,” boasts King, who opened The Workroom in 2013. You can share that Wichita spirit through the T-shirts, mugs, flags, license plates, decals and more sold at the store.
    “It’s interesting to see how much of it doesn’t even stay in Wichita,” says King, because it’s shipped off to kids in college or friends and former residents who’ve moved away. 
    The Workroom is also an ideal spot to pick up locally made artwork; King estimates she sells the works of about 50 artists.
    Lucinda’s is another place to get Wichita-centric goods. T-shirts proclaiming “Wichitawesome” and “I’m A Keeper,” which portrays the iconic Keeper of the Plains image, have always been hot sellers, says Reimers. If you want to spread some goodwill, consider buying a pack of Sneaky Cards, which encourage the holder to do a random act of kindness or uniqueness, like take a selfie with a stranger and then leave the card with the stranger to pass it on, Reimers explains.
    At Bungalow 26, which artisan Kelsey Metzinger has operated for about a decade in the Delano district, customers love the shop’s line of Neighborhood Pride candles, made right in the shop by Metzinger.
    “We can’t keep them on the shelves,” she says. Four of Wichita’s neighborhoods – Riverside, Delano, College Hill and Old Town – along with Eastborough are featured in the line.
    Bungalow 26 also sells the works of about 10 local artisans, while Metzinger and her husband also make two other well-received product lines: Splendid Alchemy, which features all-natural, essential oil aromatherapy products, and a line of men’s grooming products. Two good stocking stuffers from those lines are aromatherapy inhaling salts to combat cold and flu season and relieve stress and a bottle of beard oil, Metzinger recommends.