Charis adds economic pizzazz
Cash registers are ringing dollars bills around Woodland Park these days, as people from Andrew Wommack’s Charis Bible College give new meaning to the “buy local” campaign.
With the recent conference at the college that brought in 1,700 people, business owners are feeling the economic blessings.
“We’ve hired more people, as many as 12 in my little restaurant,” said Carmen Aurand, of Carmen’s restaurant in Gold Hill Square. “One of our employees moved up here to attend the college.”
From that weekend alone, Aug. 8 to 10, Carmen’s saw a 15-percent increase in revenue. In fact, the entire summer has been busy, said Aurand, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Carlos Macis. “We had the busiest Monday we’ve had since we opened two years ago.”
At the Hungry Bear on Midland Avenue, business is rocking even more than usual since Charis came to town. “All of us are panting from running around. We get a lot of parents of students and instructors in here,” said Lynn Logan, the restaurant’s manager. “They are very sweet courteous people. I get blessed every day.”
Jon DeVaux, who owns Alpine Firearms and is known for offering a bottomless cup of coffee, serves as an unofficial greeter for the city. With his relocation to the center of downtown, DeVaux entertains strollers along with selling guns and ammunition. Many of the new faces are those of Charis students and faculty.
“They’re an outstanding addition to the community,” DeVaux said.
At Brenda’s Boutique, fashion makes a statement, style as well as financial. “My regular customers are getting compliments on their clothes and students from Charis ask where they got them,” said Renae Trichell. “In the beginning, many of them stumbled upon my store.”
Cheryl Schemanski, Ascend Home Realty, is a student as well as a business owner. “Charis has been a blessing for the town; people are aware of the growth and the progress with Tractor Supply and Family Dollar opening,” she said. “This town will be a light on the hill for many who are lost.”
At Vintage Vines, Jan Cummer is reveling in the extra foot traffic because of the shoppers from Charis, especially during that August conference. “I had a 75-percent increase!” she said.
To ensure that shoppers continue to come in, Cummer changes the inventory — recently she added new clothes as well as alteration service.
Adele Faber at Joanie’s Baker and Deli has noticed an uptick in the catering side of the business. The same goes for Ed Lawrence, who owns Wild Wings and Things in the Safeway plaza.
At Williams Log Cabin Furniture the college hasn’t made much of a difference in sales, said Jerry Good who with his wife Vickie owns the store. “Our biggest obstacle is the lack of comfort people feel about coming up the pass,” Good said.
At Café Leo, Emily Fryer, who co-owns the shop with her husband, Dennis, has one word to say about Charis, “awesome!”
While the in-store customer count is slightly up, it’s the coffee/pastry cart at the college itself that is adding to the bottom line. “We are there from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. when school is on and we do catering for their conferences,” she said.
The students aren’t the only ones shopping and spending money. “We take our guest speakers out to lunch,” said Gary Lucke, the college director who lives in Woodland Park.
By November, Lucke estimates that 700 students will attend the college, at least 65 of them from 20 different countries. “Fifty percent of our students live in Colorado Springs,” he said.
As a transportation option the college provides a bus that leaves from the ministry in Colorado Springs. “We try to make it affordable,” Lucke said.
Lucke acknowledges the shortage of housing in Woodland Park. “Our students believe they are called to the ministry and the lack of housing is a temporary inconvenience,” he said.
As a result of the increase in the number of students, the school has begun Phase II, a 150,000 square-foot auditorium that seats 3,000. “They’re diggin’ right now!” Lucke said.