By Natalie Olmsted, Blogger of the Month for July 2015
I’ve enjoyed the opportunity as Blogger of the Month for Kansas Women Bloggers. I close the month of July with my final post about my hometown, Wichita. As stated in my bio, I’m an advocate for this growing city and its people. The ICT (as it is affectionately known, thanks to the International Air Transport Association code for our airport) has much to offer her native Wichitans and transplants. But, I want to focus on the faces and places that reflect the most light in our city, those I believe generate the greatest shine in our community — small business owners.
Okay, so I’m a little biased, since my husband joined this courageous group in 2008 when he combined his years of work experience and his passion for art and launched Concrete Colorscapes. But, even prior to his stepping out on the small business ledge, we were always supporters of local. It’s in our blood. Wichita has a long legacy of people and their businesses started on a dime and a dream. We are rooted in a city that pulses with inventiveness, creativity, and the willingness to take a risk.
Local business owners are entwined with their community: they are familiar with the mainstays and aware of trends; they understand its geographical limitations and have lived its history. But more importantly, small business owners know the people of their community. For me, small business owners are like an aunt with a scrumptious recipe or a cousin with a great idea who want to share so we might all partake in its awesomeness. From the perfect cup of coffee or delicious work-of-art donut to a sturdy, handmade coffee table or an intriguingly creative bouquet of flowers, Wichita business owners share the dream.
This weekend, I visited Veritá Coffee Company. Finally, the west side has a coffeehouse to call its own! Jon and Ivy are energetic and consummate small business owners, learning the name of every customer and passionately educating new patrons on the beauty of their espresso, as well as a menu which includes a root beer latte. There is such care in the preparation of each cup, such patience, precision, and enjoyment in doing so — something you definitely don’t get from a chain. And, it is contagious. I left Veritá wanting to know more about coffee and, of course, drink more coffee. Sure, this is their livelihood and they are aware of the stress, the gamble, and yet, their manner of voice and their genuine smiles express it’s all worth it. That and their incredible coffee will keep people lined up at the coffee bar. Plus, they were spinning vinyl Saturday morning. How you could not want to visit this place?
Owning your own business is definitely not for sissies. Small business owners work 24/7, with no real paid time off or extended holidays or anyone matching 5 percent to their retirement fund. Their bonuses come in the form of repeat customers and word of mouth. And, their true success doesn’t come in expansions or buyouts, but in longevity and consistency and the creation of family. Just look at The Artichoke Sandwich Bar, Connie’s Mexico Café, and The Spice Merchant for examples of Wichita mainstays.
The rich fabric of our ICT community is further enhanced with each new storefront, neon sign, or tinkle-clink of a bell against a door. Beautiful Day Café is a shining example of this beautification. Located at the corner of Central and Green streets, they provide healthy meals for their neighbors, from farm to table. Their food is fresh, delectable, and pleasing. But, it is the atmosphere of comfort that gets me, every time. Walking into their café is like walking into the kitchen of a neighbor or a relative. I keep waiting for my Aunt Becka to appear, rollers tucked under an opaque scarf, and serve me a plate of eggs. Their dream was built on a vision of community and family, and you can feel it wrap around you like a soft serape when you sit at a table.
While Wichita definitely has its own quality of brightness, it also shines in its ability to distinguish itself as a place to build dreams, both big and small. As I said, it’s in our blood to create, to invent, to dare to build a dream upon the purchase of an abandoned warehouse, a commercial-grade vertical stand mixer, a pro-pack of engraving tools, or a Slayer espresso machine. And, it’s in our character to support those who take such risk, as they are a reflection of ourselves, as we pursue our own dreams.
Thomas Watson, Sr. once said, “To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart.” My business and heart is in Wichita, just as her business and heart is in each one of us. Let’s continue to #ShineICT.
Thank you for following my journey this month at Kansas Women Bloggers. Please visit me at mermaidoftheplains.com, as I will be listing my favorite local businesses throughout the week.
Natalie Olmsted is a native Kansan and advocate for her hometown of Wichita. Her blog, Mermaid of the Plains, touches on life in the ICT and her love of family, sports, Wichita State University, bicycles, and beer (not necessarily in that order). When she isn’t working at WSU or cheering at Shocker basketball games, you can find her riding her cruiser bicycle in the Delano District, sipping a craft beer at The Anchor, or sitting with her husband beneath their “Lantern Therapy Tree.” She has published two short stories from her collection, The North End, and is working on two novels. And yes, she often thinks of herself as a mermaid, albeit a little landlocked.