A big dose of Kansas is coming to Massachusetts Street.
The Kansas Sampler — a regional chain store of Sunflower State-themed apparel and souvenirs — plans to open by early May at 921 Mass., the large space formerly occupied by Blue Heron Furniture store.
“If you are in Lawrence visiting, you are going to end up on Mass Street at some point,” said Aaron Liebert, co-owner of Kansas Sampler. “We want to be the must-see retail location on Mass.”
About 60 percent of the store’s merchandise will be KU-themed shirts, hats, or other Jayhawk-oriented products. The remainder of the store’s offerings will include Kansas-produced food products ranging from salsas to barbecue sauces, Kansas guide books, leather goods, and the old Wizard of Oz standbys.
The new lease ends speculation about whether one of downtown’s larger vacant spaces would be turned into a restaurant. Building owner Dick Raney said he turned down about four bar and restaurant proposals for the space.
“It was important to me to get a retailer,” Raney said. “I really don’t understand why downtown has to go the way it has recently with all the bars and restaurants. I think that can change some.”
Liebert said he was attracted to the entertainment feel that downtown has, and he believes his business will be in a good position to capitalize off of it with late evening hours. The store will be open until 9 p.m. every day except Sundays.
The Lawrence store will be the company’s seventh store in the area, with the others in Overland Park, Mission, Topeka, Leawood, Olathe and Kansas City, Mo.
Liebert said he hopes to have the store — which will employ 15 to 30 people, depending upon the season — open by May 1. A grand opening is set for the following weekend, which is Mother’s Day weekend.
The 921 Mass. space has been vacant since August, when Blue Heron closed its furniture store. Blue Heron has since reopened in North Lawrence at 642 Locust.