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In The News

Downtown is a great place to do business
The Wichita Eagle
June 14, 2010

In a recent "Have You Heard?" column, a business owner who was closing his Old Town store made the following comments about running a retail business in the downtown area:

* "I don't get the sense that people out east (or) west are coming down."

* "I don't think a lot of Wichitans are using the area or even know what's down here."

* "Unless you've got a product or service that people need monthly or every six weeks and are coming back to see you... it's difficult down here."

After reading these comments, my mind went immediately to our store, Hephner TV and Electronics, and Razook's Furniture. We are just two of many retailers who have been doing business successfully in the downtown area for decades - Razook's since the 1970s and Hephner TV since 1950. Both of our businesses sell durable goods. By definition, durable goods are those items that last at least three years, hardly the type of business where people come in monthly or every six weeks.

Hephner TV is celebrating its 60th year of business in Wichita, all of those years just a stone's throw from downtown near Washington and Kellogg. I can speak from experience that people do come downtown to shop, and they come from every corner of the city. We, in fact, find that our central location is one of our greatest advantages. Analysis of our customer base reveals that we draw customers equally from all areas of Wichita.

In addition, our location near Kellogg, I-135 and K-15 provides us with a strong regional customer base. We have many regular customers from Derby, Goddard, Newton, El Dorado and countless other communities. These customers drive to downtown Wichita to shop at our store because we are easy to find, we offer plenty of door-side parking, and we have a unique hometown shopping experience.

When we have contemplated moving to a new development on the east or west sides of town, we always come to the same conclusion. If we move east, we risk losing our west-side customers. If we move west, we may lose the east-siders. Staying in the downtown area allows us to serve all areas of town equally.

And the benefits of a central location aren't limited to customer convenience. Stores like ours and Razook's that offer free delivery and setup can reach our customers quickly because we are located at the crossroads of the region. With easy access to the area highways, we reduce our drive times and save on fuel costs.

In addition, affordable overhead costs in the downtown area allow us to provide a higher level of service to the customer while keeping our prices in line with the national chains.

Finally, it's just plain fun doing business in the heart of the city. Downtown museums, festivals and events create synergy and draw customers to us. Downtown is where Wichitans go for concerts, sporting events and live theater.

Our customers and employees can have lunch in Old Town or catch a movie on their way to or from our store. A downtown venue provides a unique and enjoyable shopping experience.

The bottom line is this: Retail businesses can and do thrive downtown. Wichitans love independent businesses, and they are willing to make the easy drive to our store because we provide a good value, great customer service and a hometown experience. Downtown Wichita can be an ideal place to do business, and there are many of us who are enduring examples of that fact.

- Greg Hephner

 

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