Dmitriy Demchuk is logging plenty of real-world experience to go along with his business studies at Wichita State University.
Demchuk, 20, helps run his mother's Central European specialty food shop while taking a full load of courses in business administration and international business.
A typical day finds him rushing from class to open Alla Market, which is named for his mother. He tries to squeeze in at least an hour of study time for each of the 20 course hours he's taking at WSU.
But sometimes real business intervenes. After shutting the doors Tuesday, he had to drive to Oklahoma City to pick up an order of imported foods that he split with a similar store there.
"Yes, it's really hectic and crazy all at the same time," Demchuk said.
Demchuk was born in Ukraine and came to this country with his family before his first birthday. They settled on the East Coast, where his dad drove a truck and his mother ran a food import business out of their home.
His parents moved to Wichita when his father was offered a job in the area. Demchuk finished high school on his own in North Carolina before joining them here and enrolling at WSU.
Demchuk said he and his mother decided to open a store specializing in Central European foods last year after discovering there wasn't one here. They found an inexpensive place to rent just off Harry, between Broadway and the Arkansas River.
About half the business comes from Wichita's small population of Russian immigrants. Regardless of origin, the shop is a foodie's delight.
It's small but orderly and well-stocked with items such as caviar and pates, pickles and vodka-filled chocolates. One refrigerated case is filled with cheeses and smoked fish, another carries at least 30 varieties of sausage, and a third holds Alla's homemade Russian salads.
"My mother, she's a great cook," Demchuk said.
Every couple of weekends, he pitches in, grilling kebabs in the store's parking lot.
Demchuk said running the store is teaching him about several aspects of business, from dealing with importers and customers to figuring out inexpensive ways to advertise (including starting a Facebook page, putting fliers on cars and painting the store's name on the family car).
"It gives me more of a hands-on experience — how can I talk to customers and relate to them?"
Then there are things that business school would probably never cover, like how to build the store's checkout counter.
"Back in the day, my father had a carpentry business," he said.
School and work don't leave Demchuk much time for the usual extracurricular pursuits of college students. But there's one tradition he rarely misses — the Sunday volleyball game and picnic held by Russians in Sim Park.
"We try to keep that going," he said.
Where: 1601 S. Palisade
Owner: Alla Demchuk
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; 1:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Friday; closed Sunday and Monday