Students and business owners discuss downtown issues

As featured in the Daily Evergreen, August 30, 2017

WSU design and architecture students and Pullman business owners met at Paradise Creek Brewery for a Pullman 2040 meeting Monday to discuss ideas on how to improve WSU’s relationship with downtown Pullman, such as increasing the social media presence of businesses.

Kathleen Ryan, a professor of interior design, shared the department’s plan to create a new art studio to encourage more WSU students to visit and explore downtown.

Organizers asked students to brainstorm ideas that would increase undergraduate student shopping in the area.

Suggestions included better use of social media apps like Snapchat and Twitter, or creating social media campaigns. Many students said they also used discount apps, such as Hooked.

“A lot of it is that students see a lot of their friends are going to this place on their social media,” said Ashley Armstrong, a junior interior design student. “They are more than likely going to show up at that place and try it for the first time.”

Students Pullman 2040    Downtown Pullman 2040

However, several business owners expressed discomfort at the idea of marketing through social media. Rico’s owner Tawny Szumlas said she had tried to use the Hooked app before, but there were many associated fees and it was too much of a hassle to run. She and other business owners said they didn’t have the means to create a business-specific Snapchat or Instagram filter.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marie Dymkoski said the purpose of the event was to encourage communication with the business owners and the students themselves to hopefully bring about a better relationship. “Our median age is very young here,” Dymkoski said. “And yet, we are not as plugged in as we should be.”

Another student, junior interior design major Rachel Gfeller, said another major problem she sees downtown is the separation between campus and the community. Students stay on campus and simply don’t know what is available, and business owners don’t know what is happening on campus.

“That’s the disconnect between campus and downtown,” Gfeller said. “There is no in between — there is no way to advertise what is downtown; we don’t know as a student.”

Several business owners said they have found more success in getting graduate students to shop downtown. “They are here for the community and not necessarily for the university,” Dymkoski said, “so there is a little bit different mindset.”

The Pullman Chamber of Commerce organized this meeting with plans to strengthen the business and community relationship between WSU and the city. Community members are encouraged to come to future meetings.

More information can be found on the Pullman 2040 website.