Spangles opening location in Lawrence

A spangles restaurant is set to open in late April at 3420 W. Sixth St. The successful '50s-style diner is based in Wichita and already has expanded to Topeka.

If Spangles’ success in Topeka is any indication, Lawrence will have a new hot spot on its hands.

The newest Spangles location was set to open in late April in the old Runza building at 3420 W. Sixth St.

“We expect it to be our highest-volume location, with a lot of students and people in Lawrence from Wichita,” said Dale Steven, co-owner of the Wichita-based ’50s-style fast-food diner.

Given the restaurant’s recent achievements, Steven has good reason for his high expectations. The first Topeka store opening made national news in restaurant trade publications. He explained why.

“An average unit volume of over $20,000 a week is considered respectable in the industry – $25,000 to $30,000 would be extremely high,” he said. “That store made $97,000 in the first week.”

So what brought on the success?

“I’d like to say it took 28 years to make it happen,” he said. “We have a good reputation, good food and good service.”

To account for the expected opening rush, store manager Jeff Hebron has hired about 50 employees in Lawrence. In addition, the management has about 50 more from Wichita staying in Lawrence for the first month of the store’s opening.

Three members of the Steven family will help open the store: siblings Dale, Craig Steven and Rene Steven. Craig is a founder and owner alongside Dale, and Rene serves as director of operations. They oversee every new Spangles opening by working at the location for two to four weeks.

From Hebron’s perspective, the chain’s success has come from the store’s ownership. He credited Dale and Craig’s high standard for food quality and variety, as well as the restaurant’s uniqueness. Hebron manages the record-breaking Topeka location.

“It was something new for Topeka,” he said. “People like the food, the customer service and the cleanliness.”

Topeka’s two locations are now at the west and central parts of the city. Hebron said people travel from north Topeka to each of the Spangles locations.

“They say, ‘When will you come to north Topeka?'” he said. “I’m sure it’s going to be the same in Lawrence, too.”

Hebron promised that the local restaurant will include Spangles’ signature rock ‘n’ roll paraphernalia, including a neon guitar, an old-fashioned working jukebox and Elvis and Marilyn Monroe statues.

“There will be a lot of neat stuff in there,” he said.

Dale said the chain plans to expand to a third location in Topeka after the Lawrence store gets off its feet, as well as open one in Manhattan. He and his brother like to keep stores close together for the floating regional supervisors to manage, he said.

Dale and Craig opened the first Spangles in 1978 in Wichita. The restaurant now has 15 locations in its hometown and six other throughout the state.

The diner’s diverse menu includes classic burgers, sourdough sandwiches and pita wraps, with many low-fat options available. Specialties include the 1/3-pound Gourmet Supreme burger, 1/3-pound Western Burger and Grilled Chicken on Pita with fat-free mayo. The restaurant opens at 8 a.m. for breakfast sandwiches, served on sourdough, pita and bagels.

“We’re excited to get into Lawrence,” Dale said. “We’ve waited a long time for this. It takes time to expand.”