The former Litwin's building in downtown Lawrence was leased today to an area family that hopes to turn it into one of the largest antique malls in Kansas.
The building, located at 830 Mass., will house The Antique Mall, which will open with about 60 vendors of antique glassware, furniture, dolls, jewelry and other collectibles, one of the partners of the new business said today.
"I can't say it for a fact, but I believe its going to be one of the biggest ones in Kansas," said Pam Murphy, Baldwin. "It's sure going to compete with any of them."
About 30 vendors have made commitments to lease space in the mall, she said.
Mrs. Murphy, her husband Earl, and her uncle and aunt, Lonnie and Barbara Ball, Lawrence, will operate the mall.
"We hope to have it open by March 15," Mrs. Murphy said. The mall will be open six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday.
MRS. MURPHY said the business first will lease space on the main floor and the lower level of the three-story, 25,000-square-foot building.
The vendors will be charged for their space by the square foot, she said. She expects to draw most of them from the Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City areas, although some will come from other parts of the state.
She said vendors will start moving into the building around the middle of next week.
Mrs. Murphy, said she originally planned to put the mall in the building that formerly housed the Window Seat, 1007 Mass.
However, she said the response to her advertisements for vendors was so great that she decided to look for a larger space. She said she signed a contract to lease the Litwin's building today.
Mrs. Murphy and her husband formerly owned a motel, service station and recreational vehicle park in Baldwin. They sold those late last year and began preparing for their antique mall, she said.
MRS. MURPHY said her uncle and aunt, Lonnie and Barbara Ball, have been in the antique business for about 20 years.
Mrs. Murphy's mother, Snowdean Arnold, who has also been selling antiques for 20 years, will also move into the new building.
Mrs. Arnold had a booth in Quantrill's Flea Market for 11 years and has operated her own antique store, The Trader, 1025 Mass., for about 1 years.
"This has just kind of been a dream of all of us combined for quite a while," Mrs. Murphy said.
There is a possiblity that other existing antique stores in the city will move their businesses into the Antique Mall, she said.
She said the family would do little remodeling. The Litwin's company extensively remodeled the property in 1984 when it bought the building from J.C. Penney. Litwin's decision to close its retail clothing business in August 1988 was prompted by the failing health of the store's owner, the late Lawrence Litwin.
Dave Billings, a local real estate agent who has been handling the property, said there had been a lot of interest in the building during the 1 years the building has been empty, but the building's size had been a deterrent.
"It's too small for a major department store and too large for retailers," Billings said.
He said he thought The Antique Mall will put the property to an "excellent use."
"It sounds like a great idea," Billings said. He said it will help make the downtown more attractive to those people who come to Lawrence to shop at the new Lawrence Riverfront Plaza.