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Archive for Friday, April 6, 2001

Furniture mart to take seat in KCK

Omaha, Neb.-based company backed by Warren Buffett to build near Kansas Speedway

April 6, 2001

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A massive furniture retailer plans to build a $55 million store and distribution center adjacent to the Kansas Speedway in Wyandotte County.

But don't expect shops in Lawrence to run and hide.

"We've been hit by other storms before. We'll survive," said Mike Dunn of Topeka-based Ed Marling's Stores Inc., in February. Ed Marling's Stores has a store in Lawrence.

In early February, Nebraska Furniture Mart officials announced plans for building a sprawling complex next to the speedway, near the intersections of Interstates 70 and 435. Officials said it would open in 2003.

The biggest chunk will be a 450,000-square-foot store for furniture, flooring, electronics and appliances.

The new shop would be three times the size of Lawrence's SuperTarget, and big enough to hold 16 editions of Ed Marling's showroom at 27th and Iowa streets.

"Our new store will be like no other shopping experience," said Bob Batt, the furniture mart's executive vice president, at the time of the announcement.

The Omaha, Neb.-based company is majority-owned by investor Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway. Dunn noted that the shop furnished the 40,000-square-foot Seattle home of Bill Gates.

"They have big pockets," said Dunn, whose 65-year-old company also has stores in Lenexa and Topeka. "They're owned by a pretty well-heeled individual. They've got the capital and wherewithal to do what they need to do.

"They're definitely going to be a factor in the marketplace."

As a whole, the 400-acre "tourism district" adjacent to the track is expected to create 3,300 new jobs and generate more than $26 million a year in sales-tax revenue, officials said.

"This project is an economic engine that will bring year-round economic activity to the region," said Jim Thompson, executive director of Wyandotte Development Inc.

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