By Kasey Worst
Old Town Lansing Times staff writer
OLD TOWN LANSING – While Old Town is a thriving community within Lansing, many students from the nearby Michigan State University do not know it exists.
Little known to MSU students
In a survey conducted for this article, some students had heard of Old Town, however they had never been there.
Kelley Montgomery, an MSU human biology major, said she did not know Old Town existed until this year.
“I actually don’t know much about Old Town,” Montgomery said. “I’ve never been there. But my roommates have.”
Other MSU students had not heard of Old Town.
Paige Pitynski, an MSU psychology major, when asked why she thought she had not heard of Old Town, said she thought the area might not attract her demographic.
“It’s maybe not as popular as it used to be,” Pitynski said. “Maybe it doesn’t appeal to our age group anymore, or a college campus in general.”
Old Town is not completely unknown to MSU students however. Joshua Holliday, a Gadaleto Marketing Intern at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts, has received help from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing to create a student art council at MSU.
“We’re trying to bring together all of the arts groups on campus,” Holliday said.
According to Holliday the council is being set up to facilitate collaboration between groups. The definition of an arts group for this council ranges from photography to fashion to martial arts.
“We want all arts groups to feel like they’re included,” Holliday said.
The council has been in the works since November of 2013, and near the beginning of 2014 the group reached out to the executive director of the Arts Council of Grater Lansing, Debbie Mikula.
“She has been so gracious and volunteered to help,” Holliday said. “She wants to be a part of this, and she wants to work with us so the Arts Council of Greater Lansing is collaborating with the Arts Council of MSU.”
Deborah Mikula said this council could help her business encourage the arts at MSU more than it has currently been able to.
“Hopefully they form something and we can start to kind of gear in a little bit more with the MSU students,” Mikula said.
Mikula said the Arts Council of Greater Lansing is based out of Old Town and works with over 60 organizations in three counties.
“We’re not a producer of arts activities,” Mikula said. “We promote those organizations and individuals that actually do that kind of work.”
Mikula said that although Old Town is full of unique businesses, she does not know how many MSU students shop in the area.
“I don’t know how much the students actually get down here, because it’s a little bit off the beaten track and it’s not walk able from the campus,” Mikula said.
Festivals and business
Some Michigan State University students do go to Old Town for festivals like Blues Fest.
However Summer Schriner, the owner of Grace Boutique in Old Town, said these festival visits by MSU students do not necessarily equate to sales for Old Town businesses.
“We’d love to see more MSU students down here,” Schriner said. “We see them for the festivals, and that’s about it. There are a few that come down and shop, but for most of us they just don’t do a lot of shopping here. They’re more here for a festival and to head back to campus.”
Schriner said she does not think the merchandise in some of the Old Town shops, including her own, appeals to college students.
“I think, in my experience college students are looking for flashier, trendier, you know, the next hip thing kind of happening,” Schriner said. “And we are not that.”
When asked if she thought businesses in Old Town might change aspects of their business to attract more MSU students, Schriner said no.
“I think most of the businesses down here have an idea of what they do and they do it well,” Schriner said. “And I don’t know that they’re gonna change that to try to attract college students.”
Schriner said she does not think she would change her shop either.
“I’d be more than happy to have anybody come that likes it, Schriner said. “But I think the styles that I buy are probably for a little more conservative college student, and somebody a little bit older for the most part.”
A member of the Old Town community who is looking to attract more students to the area is Louise Gradwohl, the executive director of the Old Town Commercial Association.
“We have a hard time getting word out about our community, and a lot of students are just uniformed,” Gradwohl said.
An MSU alumnus, Gradwohl has spoken on campus about her work and student opportunities in Old Town. Gradwohl says these opportunities include volunteer work and internships.
“A lot of MSU students find out about Old Town through their internship opportunities down here,” Gradwohl said.
While Gradwohl said the largest draw for MSU students to Old Town still appears to be festivals like Oktoberfest, however the prices of some of the stores’ products might be keeping students away.
Gradwohl said the OTCA is going to be advertising more to MSU students.
“We are going to be doing a new brand campaign,” Gradwohl said. “Hopefully that will be executed sometime this fall.”
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