Archive for Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Campaign encourages shoppers to purchase locally in county

June 4, 2008

Eat, shop, live and stay local.

That's the challenge Brenneman and Weber CPAs in Leavenworth has presented to all Leavenworth County residents.

When Jennifer Brenneman and her colleagues recently noticed a drop in sales at nearby local businesses, they started doing a little research.

"We have noticed a decline in sales in our local businesses and it's getting almost to a dire point," she said. "In the last 24 months, we've had 14 retail businesses close just in Leavenworth. We started looking at indicators as to why that would be."

Brenneman concluded that since the unemployment rate in Leavenworth County is fairly low, residents have disposable income, but they just aren't choosing to spend it locally. They are drawn to the large shopping and entertainment districts nearby, such as The Legends at Village West in Kansas City, Kan., and Zona Rosa in Kansas City, Mo., and since they invest time in the drive, customers stay for all their needs including shopping, dining and entertainment.

Local businesses are suffering because of residents' choices to take their dollars elsewhere and Brenneman said they started the "Stay Local" campaign, which challenges Leavenworth County residents to purchase all of their goods and services within the county for 60 days, to raise awareness among residents.

"What is comes down to here is just an awareness of the local impact of our dollars," she said.

While the challenge began June 1, Brenneman said anybody can sign up through the campaign's Web site at anytime. As a part of the challenge, those involved must log their experiences weekly on the Web site. The original goal was to have about 15 to 20 people from across the county sign up, but Brenneman said more seem to be added daily. While Leavenworth and Lansing are represented, very few residents from the southern part of the county, such as Basehor and Tonganoxie have volunteered and they are looking for more.

"I do think we have a wide range of people and ages that are participating, but that can always expand," Brenneman said. "Especially people from the southern part of the county - I would love to hear their input."

Businesses in Basehor are going through some of the same losses as those in Leavenworth. Casa de Pelones, a Mexican restaurant owned by Ray Suttles off of Briar Road, closed in March 2007 and Connie Burch, owner of Connie's Floral and Gifts on Parallel Road, closed her shop a few weeks ago. Both owners previously stated that their businesses struggled because of nearby competition and lack of local support.

Other local businesses, such as Simple Simon's Pizza, are downsizing and simplifying because of the loss of revenue. Earlier this week, the restaurant did away with its dine-in pizza buffet option, moved from its previous location on State Avenue and re-opened in a new location on Briar Road offering only carry out and delivery services.

Kelli Burris, who owns the franchise with her husband Jeff, said they were losing money on the buffet, but that is typical. Rent was getting high at the old location and people just don't utilize the dine-in space anymore, she said. However, she maintains that the area has been supportive of the business.

"A lot of people just don't dine out anymore," Burris said. "People are too busy. They want to go get it and go home or have it delivered."

Along with "Stay Local" participants' weekly blogs, they can also start or comment on discussion topic threads. Some of the topics discussed on the Web site so far include difficulties finding dress clothing and entertainment in the county.

"People always say there's nothing to get in Leavenworth County, but it has gotten to the point where they're not even looking," Brenneman said. "This will allow them to reacquaint themselves with what is available here."

At the end of the 60 days, Brenneman said participants will compile their findings and share the information with local shop owners and city leaders to hopefully find what the county is lacking and figure out how to entice more people to stay local.

To take the 60-day "Stay Local" challenge or to view others' experiences, visit localleavenworth.ning.com or contact the Brenneman and Weber office at (913) 651-1040 for more information.

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