Local business owners talk economic impact of WKU

Published: Aug. 17, 2017 at 3:40 PM CDT
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The start of a new school year for WKU is bringing many changes to campus -- from new students, new construction, and a new President.

As local business owners explain, the impact of all these of Hilltoppers moving to town extends far beyond "The Hill" itself.

"This store wouldn't be here without it [WKU]. Pretty simple stuff. I think you would hear that from quite a few people in this community," says Rick Raque, owner of Candle Makers on the Square and the Candle Loft Bed and Breakfast.

Some businesses are even making products specifically to cater to students on campus.

"One of the things we've just come out with is new reed diffusers in Western colors for Western students to keep their rooms and their dorms fresh, because especially on campus they can't have anything that burns like our candles do and they can't even have hot plates like what our melts would do," says Raque.

Around the square, other business owners agree.

"We stay pretty busy all year round, but I'd say business picks up in the Fall," says Kristen Robinette, owner of Back Down South.

She goes on to say, "Western is growing and year by year you see more and more students coming to Western and their parents coming in for game day and so we see an increase in sales totally, but I'd say the biggest part is it's just more people in Bowling Green."

She says several of those parents coming to town -- especially the moms -- stop in to buy clothes just as often as the students.

Around the corner at Spencer's Coffee, owner Justin Shepherd says he sees the impact of WKU on his business as well.

"Being just five blocks away from campus we see a lot of students every day and so the place is just a little more lively we are a little busier when Western is in session," he says.

And business owners say they expect sales to only go up from here.

"We'll do approximately 70% of our business from now until the end of the year," adds Raque.

These students aren't just customers, either.

"We have Western girls that work here, we have three right now," says Robinette.

"A lot of our staff are either current students at Western or former students who have stuck with us even after they graduated. I'd say 70 percent of our team here has some connection to Western," Shepherd tells 13 News.

He adds that in recent years, several students seem to be staying in Bowling Green during the Summer break, instead of moving back home, which has also helped business.

"An economic impact as well, and we've seen that as our business has grown sort of along side Western's growth," says Shepherd.

It's a connection with the community that businesses owners hope will grow deeper over the years.

"The one thing that I hear constantly as these new students are coming in is they just absolutely love the square. They think it's the neatest thing, and with the construction, we're not even right yet, so I can't wait until they see it when it's all done," adds Raque.