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Why is this small-town Main Street not dead?

September 6, 2011

Bank, newspaper, grocery store, doctor, dentist, chiropractor, accountant, auctioneer, pharmacy, hardware store, beauty salons, restaurants, flower shop, gift shop, realtor, insurance agencies, landscaper, car dealership — that’s just part of Cheney, Kansas’, Main Street.

This no-stoplight, rural, small town has 2,094 residents and a crowded, revenue-generating business district. These are long-standing businesses, too. Some are in the second-generation of family ownership.

What’s going on in Cheney? Where’s the dying small-town Main Street?

“Cheney has always felt a purpose for its existence,” says Carl Koster, long-time resident and former mayor. Some of that comes from its distance to Wichita, the nearest largest metro area. He also credits forward-thinking leaders who don’t have a political agenda; a locally owned bank that sees the potential in local businesses; and key economic anchors, such as a grocery store. Koster also says Cheney residents know how to work together, having been the host city for the Sedgwick County Fair for many years.

Another key factor to Cheney’s Main Street success is “the Wal-Mart rule,” Koster says, where a main street can survive if it’s more than 25 miles from Wal-Mart. Cheney is now 22 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart.

That will change in 2012. A Wal-Mart is being built in nearby Goddard, about 12 miles away.

The community is already going on the offensive with its “Think Local, Buy Local, Cheney First” program. Its first campaign involved $10,000 in Cheney Bucks. Shoppers could buy $100 in Cheney Bucks for just $90. The chamber and several local businesses provided money for the discounts.

I sincerely hope Cheney’s Main Street can survive, even when the campaigns stop — and that Cheney can always know its purpose for existence. What better way to show it than with a bustling Main Street.

Here are some sights. Come on over:

Cheney, Kansas, City Hall

A view of Cheney's Main Street

Citizens State Bank

Jim's grocery store

Robinson's hardware store

Open doors welcome visitors on Cheney's Main Street.

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5 Responses to “Why is this small-town Main Street not dead?”

  1. Tammy Says:

    I love this post and I’m cheering for Cheney! Please do report back on the true economic impact of a proximity to Walmart. So many other towns can be like this too.


  2. Thanks, Tammy. We’re all watching and hoping Main Street can stand steady.


  3. Love it! Sounds silly but I can’t wait to move back when I am done with school.


  4. Not silly at all, Molly. Young professionals returning home is wonderful news for any small town. Hope things are going well for you this semester.


  5. [...] Kansas, USA Lynn Woolf presents  Why is this small-town Main Street not dead? posted at  From Sand Creek, saying, “This post is a look at why Cheney, KS, with a population of [...]


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