Revamping traffic for Pullman businesses

Pullman Chamber of Commerce brings back 12-year-old initiative to encourage residents, WSU students to shop locally



Mary-Lou Page and Morgan Sidzyik, freshmen at WSU, enter through the front door of Brused Books Wednesday afternoon in downtown Pullman.


Amid COVID-19 mandates and restrictions, the Pullman Chamber of Commerce is revamping its Pullman Needs U initiative to increase traffic to local businesses.

“This year has been by-laws out the window; experience out the window,” Executive Director Marie Dymkoski said. “It’s been more, ‘What can we do? How can we share information? How can we assist all businesses?’”

The initiative started during the 2008 recession, but Dymkoski has brought the program back, she said.

After a meeting with Pullman community representatives, including the Pullman economic development director and the WSU Office of the President, Dymkoski decided to resurrect the Pullman Needs U campaign.

The campaign worked well 12 years ago, so it was time to take it off the back burner, she said. 

The Pullman Needs U initiative is meant to educate Pullman residents about shopping local and keeping tax dollars within the community, she said. Those tax dollars then fund parks and recreation, as well as police and fire departments.

Pullman businesses have struggled to stay afloat this year because of COVID-19, Dymkoski said.

Pullman resident Amber Nguyen peers into RealiTea as she and her children, Sammie and Ben, wait their turn to enter and order their meals Wednesday afternoon on Main Street in Pullman. (ABIGAIL LINNENKOHL)

“Looks can be deceiving. Many businesses remain open, however; half the students aren’t here, holiday events are not occurring and visitors are absent,”  Jennifer Hackman, Pullman economic development manager, said. “This population has an enormous impact on our small, local and independent businesses.”

Members who are promoting the initiative are asking Pullman residents, students and WSU faculty to order takeout or delivery from local restaurants. Also, holiday shopping in-town is preferred rather than buying from Amazon, Hackman said.

Students are an important part of the community and have a large impact on the local economy, Dymkoski said.

“Many of Pullman’s businesses are here because of the student population. The students should treat Pullman as their own home too,” she said. “We want to see students out in town but respecting social distance guidelines and wearing their masks.”

The Chamber of Commerce is working with the Downtown Pullman Association and the Pullman Economic Development Department to create a Facebook page for the Pullman Needs U initiative. The page will provide a place for businesses to send information or promotional offers with the hopes of reaching the public, Dymkoski said.

“I challenge community members to pick up the phone and call businesses and find out how to shop with curbside pick up; most businesses want to stretch out their hands to the community and make adjustments,” she said. “It’s a dual-purpose campaign.”