Westloop Shopping Center in Manhattan, KS

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Photo Credit: Westloop Business Association Facebook Page

Westloop Shopping Center in Manhattan, KS is a constant hub of activity with its variety of businesses. For many, Westloop Shopping Center is also a landmark in our community!

If you’ve spent much time in Manhattan, not only are you familiar with the shopping
center that “Westloop” is, but you’ve probably found yourself using it as a navigational
landmark before. After all, it sits right at the intersection of Seth Child Road and
Anderson Avenue. These two streets are not just two of the main streets in town, but
they’re also two of the streets that let you know you’ve arrived in the more West-central
part of Manhattan.

For those who have lived in Manhattan very long, you may even recall when one of
Westloop’s anchoring stores, Dillon’s Food Store, was located on the east side of the
shopping center. Ample parking has always made locals appreciate the ease of getting
in and out of the grocery store, but what was the Westloop Shopping Center like when it
was first developed in the 1960s?? Is there more to the story behind this navigational
landmark?

Those who were coming of age in the 1960s remember the decade as a time of change,
and the landscape of Manhattan as folks knew it was also changing. In the years
leading up to the development of the Westloop Shopping Center, Tuttle Creek Dam and
the city’s levee system for flood control were completed. Kansas State College became
Kansas State University. A fire at the Manhattan Country Club destroyed the clubhouse,
a new post office was built at the intersection of 5th Street and Leavenworth Street, and
the Manhattan Medical Center was established.

A group of 7 local businessmen with recognizable names such as Fred Bramlage (think
Bramlage Coliseum), Bob Wilson (of Charlson & Wilson Bonded Abstracters), Ken
Phelps (we can all name someone who has lived in the Phelps Addition), Johnny
Walters (of Walters Construction), the two Griffith Brothers (of Griffith Lumber) and
Willard Kershaw (whose ready-mix concrete and sand company literally laid the
foundation for much of present-day Manhattan and the KSU campus) came together to
establish the Westloop Shopping Center in 1963. This new formation “way out West”
was seen as a threat to the businesses located on Poyntz Avenue in downtown
Manhattan, many of whom had survived the disastrous Flood of 1951. Steeped in
controversy, the 7 founders of Westloop forged ahead with their plan and recruited
a young, up-and-coming local banker by the name of Phil Howe to open a bank at the
center of the new shopping district. Mr. Howe spent six months preparing an application
to open a new state bank and after a day-long hearing, the charter for Kansas State
Bank was granted.

Kansas State Bank, which rebranded as KS State Bank in 2015, opened its doors at its
current site in 1969 – in a temporary trailer (a humble beginning compared to the bank’s
now-legendary copper roof and guttering). Dillon’s Food Store was located to the east,
and the Tempo store was already established. Nespor’s Liquor became the first new
account for the Westloop Shopping Center and was soon followed by the infamous Mr.
Steak restaurant and Mrs. Raynard’s diner eventually became the current-day
McDonald’s.

Fast forward to the 21st century and Westloop is now home to over 25 retailers,
restaurants and service providers. The original businesses – Dillon’s, KS State Bank,
McDonald’s and Nespors – remain, but the shopping center has grown to include other
familiar businesses such as Jo-Ann Fabrics, Marshall’s, Bellus Academy, The UPS
Store, Little Apple Brewing Company, Little Caesars, Salon One, Family Implant &
Dentistry, Eat the Frog, Scooters, Tommy’s Car Wash, Kre8tion Nails, Sun Tan City,
Smoothie King, Manhattan Appliance & Sleep Source, Goblin Games, and the brand-
new MHK Tacos food truck. If you appreciate fun facts, did you know that Dillon’s Food
Store located in Westloop draws over 5 million shoppers each year?!
If you’re still reading this, you’ve come to know two things: Westloop’s history is steeped
in change and providing services to the Manhattan community. This tradition provided
an opportunity for another ‘first’ – a five-year collaboration between the Flint Hills ATA
Bus system, BHS Construction, and students from Kansas State University’s College of
Architecture, Planning, and Design led to the construction of Manhattan’s very first
covered bus shelter in 2022. Not only was the structure’s design intended to be artful by
reflecting the beauty of the Flint Hills through its sweeping roof, but the curved roofline
also creates wheelchair-accessible areas under the awning which protects patrons
from Kansas’ elements.

The brick-and-mortar stores are what everyone sees, but be sure to visit Westloop for
the experience. From Tad’s Shaved Ice to the “Bewitching” trick-or-treat event (hosted
by the Westloop Business Association) to the lighted holiday tree to the new mural on
the backside of Dillon’s, there are many memories waiting to be created.

Thank you to Mr. Phil Howe who so graciously spent a warm April afternoon with me
and provided the historical background for this post. Mr. Howe’s ambition, knowledge, and leadership have been of benefit to just not the Westloop Shopping Center, but the
entire Manhattan community.

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