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Kansas City’s sustainable success boosts small business profitability

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Anthony Oropeza still remembers the day he walked into Travis Kelce’s studio at InterUrban ArtHouse in suburban Kansas City and saw some of his acrylic and mixed-media works hanging on the walls.

Kelce was helping fundraise for the community arts center, and the first piece that caught his attention was Hall of Fame Negro Leagues pitcher Satchel Paige, who later played in Cleveland near where the Chiefs’ tight end grew up.

Then Kelce saw Oropeza’s painting titled “:13 seconds” depicting the dramatic finish of the Chiefs’ 2022 game against Buffalo. Kelce made the crucial catch to move Kansas City into field goal range in the division’s playoff game. He later caught the goal in overtime to send the Chiefs back to the AFC championship game.

“This place looks familiar,” Kelce said to Oropeza.

Oropeza’s work has attracted the attention of more than just Kelce in recent years. Kansas City Royals’ Jarrod Dyson and former St. He placed orders for the wife of St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols. But the majority of his work focuses on the Chiefs, which helps him supplement his 9-to-5 job at the local parks and recreation department.

“The Chiefs’ success, or more specifically the success and greatness of Patrick Mahomes, has definitely helped my career,” he said. “It helped me pay for my children’s education. “It helped me meet some of the best Chiefs fans around.”

In fact, the sustained excellence of the Chiefs, who play the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday in their fourth Super Bowl in five years, is vital to the profitability of dozens — if not hundreds — of small businesses like Oropeza’s art studio.

In December, Econsult Solutions Inc. estimated that the Chiefs’ total annual economic impact on the team and Arrowhead Stadium operations, as well as ancillary expenses from those attending non-local games and events, was only around $1 billion.

“We are incredibly proud of our connection to the Kansas City area for more than 60 years,” Chiefs president Mark Donovan said in a statement. “We know that the franchise and the stadium are important factors economically.”

Not just for big companies, but also for small t-shirt companies, bakeries and even local artists.

Take RAYGUN, an irreverent clothing company with locations throughout the Midwest; T-shirts feature cheeky sayings like “I Cheered Up Kansas City Before It Got Cold” and “Go to Taylor Swift’s Boyfriend.” Of course, his relationship with pop superstar Taylor Swift has also proven to be quite profitable.

Another local clothing company, Charlie Hustle, pays tribute to him with hoodies and shirts that read “In My Red Age.”

Located in the Kansas suburb of Prairie Village, Dolce Bakery has a full “Swiftie Collection” of heart-shaped cupcakes, as well as a more extensive menu of Chiefs-related cookies and treats. The cakes are decorated to resemble Mahomes, with his signature curly hair, and coach Andy Reid, whose mustache and glasses are quite distinctive.

“January and February have historically been quieter months for us, but these Super Bowl years have allowed our creative team to churn out freshly baked Chiefs creations that the Kansas City community loves,” said Erin Brown, founder of Dolce Bakery.

The nature of small businesses allows them to pivot quickly, too. So when the Chiefs beat the Ravens to earn their spot in the Super Bowl in Las Vegas, Dolce produced a cake that said “Welcome to the Kingdom” but styled like a “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign greeting visitors. It’s been on the Strip for more than sixty years.

“As loyal fans ourselves, this has given us the opportunity to connect with our regular customers and reach new customers through our collective passion and support for the Chiefs,” Brown explained.

After the Chiefs beat the Bills in the divisional round, when Kelce’s brother Jason Kelce took off his famous shirt and jumped out of his suite to celebrate, the bakers at Eileen’s Colossal Cookies in Liberty, Missouri, took notice. They decorated a cookie cake with a spectacular view of Eagles headquarters, and photos of it posted on social media quickly went viral.

Another bakery, McLain’s, noticed Reid’s bushy mustache was frozen during the Chiefs’ wild-card win over Miami, the fourth-coldest game played in NFL history.

So they began serving up a slightly modified version of their own Reid-inspired cake: the “Andy Reidcicle Cake,” in which his mustaches look like they’re icicles.

These are just a few of the small businesses benefiting from the strong Chiefs industry.

“It helped me help my community, too,” added Oropeza, the artist whose studio Kelce visited that day. In addition to his original work, he also creates live paintings for charity fundraisers, and some of his Chiefs-related pieces have sold for thousands of dollars.

“The most important part of all this was that my daughter met Travis that day, surrounded by my paintings,” Oropeza admitted. Meeting him brought the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on her face. And as a father, seeing your child smile that wide has been worth all the late nights (4-hour sleep nights) and all the other sacrifices over the last 10 years.”

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