Driving into Wichita the other day, I was tempted to go by Chick-fil-A for a hot, delicious chicken breakfast sandwich. This matters because, to drive by Chick-fil-A, it would take me driving Rock Road through town rather than my usual route on K-15.
I was in a hurry, so I decided to skip breakfast and take K-15.
But this conundrum, which happens in my mind quite often, got me thinking. How many other Derbyites have this internal struggle on their morning commute? Rock Road or K-15? Chick-fil-A or McDonald’s?
Around that same time, I stumbled upon a list of locally owned and operated restaurants in Derby on the Derby Chatter Facebook page. Like everything else on that page, it was debated thoroughly about which restaurants should be considered local, and which shouldn’t.
Regardless, one thing stuck out to me: Locally owned restaurants in Derby are almost exclusively on the west end, along the K-15 corridor. No, really. Out of the 18 spots on the list (I didn’t include Emperor’s Japanese Grill or Spangles since they’re not local), 14 are right along K-15 or right off K-15. The four east-side restaurants are all south of Meadowlark, meaning there were zero local restaurants represented on the north side of town on Rock Road. At least, according to this list.
The main reason for the segregation of our local restaurants is simple: Space is expensive along Rock Road. Like, really expensive.
According to LoopNet.com, commercial space in the Derby Marketplace area starts at about $1.79 per square foot per month. For a 5,000-square-foot location, this costs $8,950 per month.
Commercial space in Greenway Ct., which is off of K-15, down the strip from the Buckner Dillons, starts at just $0.67 per square foot per month. For the same amount of space, this costs $3,350 per month – $5,600 less than on Rock Road. That’s a huge difference.
Of course, this is probably backed up by traffic patterns and, of course, the other businesses nearby. The Buckner Dillons probably doesn’t compare with Target when it comes to sheer number of shoppers.
But it does present an issue for all Derbyites: Do you prioritize eating local, or do you just find something along Rock, which is probably the same something you could find in NewMarket Square or east Wichita – or just about any other decent sized city in the country?
This matters because local restaurants matter. They’re a flavor of our city that can only be found in our city. There are 2,363 Chick-fil-As across the country. There’s only one Pizza John’s – or, at least, only one Pizza John’s as good as our Pizza John’s.