Retailers bullish on local market
Owners of several retail establishments in Tonganoxie say they believe the future is bright for the area. The city, they say, will continue its most recent pattern of both residential and commercial growth.
In fact, they believe that the strong growth exhibited by all of Southern Leavenworth County and along the U.S. Highway 24-40 corridor will benefit their businesses.
In short, they're hopeful about the future of retail.
"I think Tonganoxie obviously will continue to grow," said Gary Holst, owner of Holst Pharmacy in downtown Tonganoxie. "I think the things being done like the four lane highway from Kansas City, the NASCAR racetrack I think those are all things that are going to promote growth for Tonganoxie."
That's why Holst is preparing to construct a new building for his pharmacy. He plans to move into the new structure along U.S. Highway 24-40 within the next six months or so.
Holst believes the city should address the issue of parking in downtown Tonganoxie. Presently, most of the parking that is available is on-street.
"If they want to continue to have retail shops downtown, I think they would need additional parking," he said.
The future of retail shops in downtown Tonganoxie is a subject that's up for debate. Holst believes it's likely that the downtown will become home to service businesses, rather than more retailers.
"That's how I see the town going," he said.
But Susan Quisenberry, owner of Village Floral for the past 5 1/2 years, plans to stay put in her downtown location.
"I think, for a lot of us, it makes a lot more sense to stay where we are," she said. "It depends on the kind of business that you have. I think there's room for both kinds of businesses, those on the highway and those downtown."
Quisenberry said her business has picked up substantially since she purchased it in September 1994. Quisenberry added to the shop's existing floral line, bringing in more gift items.
"I think the future is bright," she said. "I'm real optimistic."
And she's optimistic about the future of downtown.
"I love it," she said. "I hope that it does not get deserted. I think it's a neat little area now, and I think it's going to be really neat once the trees mature and the sidewalks are finished."
For Melanie Starcher, owner of Backporch Friends, location is everything. She's comfortable with her gift shop's site along U.S. Highway 24-40. It helps, too, that she's in New Town Square, which also houses Bitler's BBQ and Anton's Hallmark Shop.
"I get people who wouldn't necessarily stop at my shop, but they do on the spur of the moment," she said.
Starcher's carved a niche in the local retail market with collectibles in particular, Beanie Babies. Starcher, who soon will celebrate her 11th year in business, believes some changes would have to be made to bolster Tonganoxie's retail atmosphere.
"My point of view is, unless they make more individual shops something like a Parkville or a Weston to draw more people just to shop, I don't see a big booming business for small retail shops," she said. "There's not a large enough base of people."
In addition to attracting people from other cities, Starcher said, area residents would have to change their mindsets and shop where they live.
At Billy Jack's Antiques, about three-quarters of the customers come from out of town.
"We have some very good in-town customers, but we have a lot of out-of-town customers who come in from Shawnee Mission, Overland Park, Lawrence, Leavenworth, Basehor," said Joan Cronemeyer, who owns the downtown Tonganoxie store with her daughter.
Cronemeyer, whose business is named for her husband, would welcome another antique shop to the city.
"I think it would help the downtown area," she said.
"I would like to see the downtown area be a little special area. I think another antique store would help because people come in and they say, 'Are there any more antique stores in town?'"
Don Pelzl owner of Pelzl's Hardware in downtown Tonganoxie for the past 20 years says he's more comfortable with nuts and bolts than he is predicting the future of retail development in Southern Leavenworth County.
So he's taking a wait-and-see stance.
"It's going to be awfully hard to predict what happens here in the next few years," he said.
"I think the commercial corridor, eventually, will be along 24-40 highway. But I don't think downtown Tonganoxie will dry up and go away."
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