Wichita getting more of ‘college town’ feel as local businesses benefit from start of school

With the start of school, businesses say they're glad to have students back as consumers and workers.
Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 6:10 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - While thousands of college students attending school in Wichita already call the area home, recent growth is giving the city a little more of a “college town” feel, especially around Wichita State University. The Kansas Board of Regents last fall showed a headcount of about 16,000 students enrolled at Wichita State. WSU Tech’s enrollment brings the state-college population in the Wichita area to more than 20,000.

With more than 20,000 students enrolled at Wichita State and WSU Tech, plus the return of students to four-year colleges Newman University and Friends University, the start of a new school year is a welcome site for local businesses.

Social Tap Drinkery is a restaurant that sits on Wichita State’s campus. When students leave campus for the summer, their business goes with them.

“Summer was as slow as we had initially expected with everyone leaving campus, and we are still a fairly new company,” said Social Tap owner Levi Schwertfeger. “So, dealing with that was an interesting period.”

Through students’ first week back, Social Tap reported an expected, welcomed boost.

“We expected to get a lot busier with school coming back in session and we have been. It’s been great so far,” Schwertfeger said.

Leslie Coffee Company, located in Wichita’s Delano District, said the increase in business likely will come later in the semester as students start studying more for exams.

“I think as the year goes on and people find out about us, and people get more established in their routine, they’re actually studying as opposed to just like getting into classes,” Leslie Coffee Company Owner Sarah Leslie said.

With several local businesses, students aren’t just coming back as returning customers; many are also workers.

“We had some student workers and we have more than we did our first year being open,” Schwertfeger said. “We’ve been accepting lots of applications, reading through a lot of them, and receiving more than we expected, which was great for us.”

Employers say the effort of adjusting to busy college schedules is worth the extra help.

The regents will release this year’s enrollment numbers at the end of September, numbers that likely will show further growth.