It used to be that the airport gift shop was the only place to snag a Wichita T-shirt or an ICT coffee mug.
But a few local businesses are now filling their shelves with Wichita wear that’s stylish and in demand – and they’re adding to their inventories just in time for gift-giving season.
Janelle King’s Workroom, a custom drapery and upholstery store at 150 N. Cleveland has become an unlikely destination for what she generally refers to as “flag swag” – items printed with Wichita’s red, white and blue flag and with other representations of the city.
She sells Wichita flag T-shirts, onesies, tote bags, coffee mugs, aprons, license plates, cufflinks and hats. She stocks artistic prints of the Wichita skyline, framed or unframed. She has decals, business card holders, greeting cards, buttons, leather key chains and bottle openers. Before Christmas, she’ll add Wichita flag hoodies and grown-up coloring books featuring images from Wichita. She also has flyable Wichita flags in two different sizes.
“This was supposed to be the candy at the front of the grocery store,” she said. “But it has taken off and is now its own beast.”
King began her reign as queen of Wichita merchandise two and a half years ago when she started printing fabric remnants into patches featuring the image of the Wichita flag. She’d sell the patches for $1 and include an informational flier about the history of the flag, which was created by local artist Cecil McAlister and adopted in 1937.
The patches were so popular, she started sewing them on to custom-made pillows. Soon, King was obsessed and started trolling Etsy for Wichita items and commissioning local artists to create things. Among her best sellers are somewhat irreverent T-shirts with designs by local artist Devin Halsey. One, a poke at Gov. Sam Brownback, features a picture of famous Kansas abolitionist John Brown that reads “Bring John Brownback.” Another shows deer and antelope playing outdoors.
Now the items take up a large section of the front of her store, and earlier this year, King purchased a 1969 Volkswagen Microbus, which she had wrapped with a Wichita flag design. She takes it to various events in Wichita, where it transforms into a pop-up store selling her gear. Watermark Books, Reverie Coffee Roasters and Old Cowtown Museum also are carrying some of King’s merchandise.
The success of her Wichita wear, King says, reflects a changing attitude about Wichita, especially among some of its younger residents. Many young professionals, such as herself, grew up in Wichita, and now that they’ve decided to stay, they’re realizing it’s a pretty cool place.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily that people love the flag,” she said. “It’s reflective of a resurgence of Wichita pride.”
Another popular destination for Wichita wear is Lucinda’s, a whimsical gift store in Old Town Square that is part clothing boutique, part purveyor of funky and fun gift items.
Owners Ryan and Valerie Reimers started small, like King, selling Wichita buttons and bumper stickers.
People liked them, so they designed a T-shirt that used an image of the “Keeper of the Plains.” Those sold well, so the store expanded its Wichita T-shirt line, adding one with the city skyline that reads “Wichitawesome,” some printed with the Wichita flag and some that incorporate the flag into an image of a bicycle.
Lucinda’s also has pint glasses printed with the Wichita flag, a kid’s book called “Santa Is Coming to Wichita” that features landmarks like Intrust Bank Arena and the Orpheum Theatre, and Wichita flag decals. Before Christmas, the store will add metal campfire mugs decorated with the Wichita flag and metal lapel pins.
“We’re getting more and more all the time,” Ryan Reimers said. “It’s becoming a trend, which is awesome.”
Where to get Wichita pride gear
The Workroom, 150 N. Cleveland: The shop has a whole section of Wichita gear, including onesies and T-shirts ($24), aprons ($45), hats ($26), prints ($25 and up), coffee mugs ($20), throw pillows ($45), tote bags ($28), plastic license plates ($18), decals ($3-$4), notecards ($3) and more.
Lucinda’s, 329 N. Mead: This gift shop carries many Wichita-centric T-shirts ($20-$24), onesies ($20), pint glasses ($12), hoodies ($49.99), patches ($5) and a book called “Santa Is Coming to Wichita” ($9.99).
Doo-Dah Diner, 206 E. Kellogg: This restaurant’s name doubles as Wichita’s best-known nickname, and the diner sells shirts and coffee mugs decorated with its logo, a cartoon-version of the Wichita skyline complete with an airplane, Century II, the Epic Center and the “Keeper of the Plains.” Doo-Dah also recently started carrying a Wichita adult coloring book, designed by local artist Sarah R. Olmstead ($14.50). The diner also has a rack of Kansas-themed coffee mugs and some Kansas T-shirts.
The Spice Merchant, 1308 E. Douglas: The shop carries embroidered Wichita tea towels.
Wings of the Wind, 550 N. Rock Road: Owner Susan Adams carries 2-by-3-foot ($29.99) and 3-by-5-foot ($59.99) Wichita flags and soon will have house-sized and garden-sized flags. Adams said she’s also working on a Wichita flag kite. In addition, she stocks steel “Keeper of the Plains” statues that range from desk-sized to 17 inches tall and range in price from $29 to $130.