Archive for Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Town Talk: Longtime downtown retailer The Bay Leaf to close; Curry in a Hurry making a comeback; city hires new eco devo coordinator

April 6, 2011, 11:41 a.m. Updated April 6, 2011, 1:24 p.m.


News and notes from around town:

• The longtime downtown kitchen store The Bay Leaf is closing after 35 years in business.

Owner Geri Riekhof confirmed to me this morning that she’s made the decision to shut the doors of the business at 717 Mass.

“It is a very sad thing,” Riekhof said. “I go from sobbing and feeling like there was a death in the family to then telling myself that it is a passage of time thing and the retail world is just changing. At least I got to be part of it when it was still a thrill.”

Riekhof said the Internet has done much to take the thrill out of the business. She said consumers need to understand what Internet purchases are doing to locally owned stores. She said legislators also have to figure out a way to fairly tax Internet purchases.

“The Internet is what is killing us,” Riekhof said. “It makes it so easy to shop without paying sales tax, without paying shipping, and they can still undercut us on price. It is killing local businesses everywhere.”

Riekhof said downtown businesses also need to do a better job of banding together to compete. She said she was disappointed that more retailers did not agree to have later hours during the holiday retail season. She said she would have liked later hours at her shop year-around, but found it difficult to justify it if there only were going to be a handful of businesses open.

“You have to have a critical mass,” said Riekhof, who spent 10 years as a manager with the Helzberg Diamond chain in Kansas City. “It was frustrating that as a group we couldn’t get on the same page about how late we need to stay open to compete with the malls that are in the area.”

The store previously was at 725 Mass. Street, but moved to its current location in 2008. The new space was about 2.5 times bigger and allowed the store to add cooking classes. Riekhof said the timing of the move ended up being bad, as the economy soured just a few months after the move. She said her landlord — recently elected City Commissioner Bob Schumm — had made several accommodations to try to keep her as a tenant, but ultimately sales fell to the point that Riekhof decided the business was no longer feasible.

Riekhof — who fell in love with the store in the 1980s while working for previous owners Anne Yetman and Gunda Hiebert — said she’ll start a going out of business sale on Thursday. She expects the store — which has eight employees — to close within 45 days.

• Curry in a Hurry is making a comeback. As we previously reported, Lawrence businessman Sammi Sangam last year made a splash in the local convenience store industry by selling homemade Indian food out of his Shell gasoline station at 1733 Mass. He called the idea “Curry in a Hurry.” But earlier this year, the Shell station closed down (it has since reopened under new management) and Curry in a Hurry closed with it. Now, there’s a sign up at 1111 Mass., across the street from the Douglas County Courthouse, saying Curry in a Hurry will open soon. The location is the previous home of Kwality Comics. The comic book store is now sharing space at 1113 Mass. with Vagabond Books, which as we previously reported is in the process of closing. Folks at the comic book store confirmed that Sangam is the man behind the new Curry in a Hurry restaurant, but attempts to reach him were not immediately successful.

• The issue of economic development has a new face attached to it at Lawrence City Hall. Corey Mohn, a former staff member at the Kansas Department of Commerce, has been hired to serve as the city’s new economic development coordinator. Mohn replaces Roger Zalneraitis, who recently left to lead an economic development organization in Colorado. Mohn will continue to do the same type of analytical work that Zalneraitis did — such as analyzing the cost and benefits of incentives offered to new businesses. But he told me he also hopes to use his ties with the Department of Commerce to help the city work more closely with the state on economic development initiatives.


posternutbag 7 years, 1 month ago

Woo hoo! That is great news about Curry in a Hurry. We've missed it ever since the Shell station changed ownership. Looking forward to visiting Sammi frequently at his new location!

kernal 7 years, 1 month ago

I will miss The Bay Leaf. But, honestly, the last time I was in there was two years ago to buy some kitchen stuff and it looked like it was already set up primarily for cooking classes.

At least I didn't order anything online. I found some items at Weavers and the rest at two chain stores. It was either the chain stores, go to KC or order online.

Weavers has some quality kitchen items in the basement level..

JHawker 7 years, 1 month ago

It is truly sad news to hear that The Bay Leaf is closing. That is one of my favorite stores to peruse for gift ideas and for things in the kitchen/around the house. Its a tragedy that the internet has taken the joy out of going shopping, too many people staring at a screen which is taking over their lives instead of going into the world and enjoying life as it is meant to be. This includes spending money at local shops, eating at local restaurants (not taking the lazy way out of ordering in or picking something up). I wish the Lawrence community would step it up and let Lawrence thrive to the possibility of what we have, and not deprive our community of the jewels of our infrastructure and downtown.

notanota 7 years, 1 month ago

I'm sad about the Bay Leaf. It's true the Internet is killing a lot of local store, but it isn't necessarily sales tax. A lot of the bigger sites like charge sales tax. They do offer free shipping, but the reason they compete so well is because they have a larger inventory than any local shop could possibly expect to have, ever. It's all about the Long Tail. Don't blame it all on the Internet, though. Bed Bath & Beyond and World Market have been eroding Bay Leaf business, too.

I agree that the stores need to be open later hours if they want to compete. I've tried shopping locally on Mass and am often frustrated that the store I want to visit is closed by the time I can make it downtown. I work during the day, and I commute. I can't make it to a store by 6:00. That's another area where World Market and Bed Bath & Beyond do better than Mass street shops. That and traffic/parking, which is always a hassle, even when there are plenty of spots. I hope they figure it out. I really do like downtown and would prefer to spend my money there.

Audrey Goebel-Hall 7 years, 1 month ago

"Items sold by LLC, or its subsidiaries, and shipped to destinations in the states of Kansas, Kentucky, New York, North Dakota, or Washington are subject to tax."

If you live in the state of Kansas and order items from, you have to pay sales tax. That does not hold true for all of the United States though.

Edwin Rothrock 7 years, 1 month ago

So let me get this straight. You're a tax cheat, and boastful about it. And your answer to the school budget crisis (a contributing factor to which are low tax revenues) is to close more schools. By your own words, a criminal willing to have others suffer the negative consequences of your behavior. The attitude of "me first, right or wrong" that your comments demonstrate is a good example of the problems dragging the US economy down.

notanota 7 years, 1 month ago

How awesome that your brother helps you cheat on your taxes.

d_prowess 7 years, 1 month ago

Those states charge tax because they have distribution centers there.

notanota 7 years, 1 month ago

Yes, but many online stores have retail presences in each state, which is why it's not necessarily the sales tax that kills the local businesses.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 7 years, 1 month ago

We spend very little money downtown (we have very little to spend), but we have shopped at The Bay Leaf on many occasions. That is truly sad. It was a very well run business.

somedude20 7 years, 1 month ago

Curry in a hurry is the best curry you will find in town. Face it, India Palce went down hill a few years ago and they put so much cream in their sauce that it turns into concrete in your belly. I do enjoy Zen Zero but their curries are nowhere as good as CIAH and the quality of the food can be hit or miss but Sammie's is tops!!!!! Go and try it, you will not be disappointed!!! Sammie, hope this one lasts!

somedude20 7 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, I eat the buffet for lunch and it just sits in my belly all day feeling heavy (like rosie o'donnell crawled in my belly)

Barb Murdoch 7 years, 1 month ago

The last three times I was in there not one of the sales people acknowledged me. They all tried to look "busy". There are plenty of other places in town to buy kitchen stuff. Weaver's has a great kitchen dept and they at least say hi.

pedrosmama 7 years, 1 month ago

Anyone who feels the need to make negative comments about the Bay Leaf should seriously consider keeping it to themselves. It's closing. There's no need. Stop and consider that this is very personal to the many people who have been loyal customers for years, as well as to the employees, some of whom have worked there for quite a long time and are now losing their jobs. I know for a fact that Geri Riekhof did everything she could to sustain the business for as long as possible, and I can only imagine how difficult is it to not only lose your livelihood, but also to watch while it gets picked apart until it is empty. Have some class.

pinecreek 7 years, 1 month ago

I have to disagree with you a bit--we were loyal shoppers at Bay Leaf throughout the 80's and 90's. We moved away for a few years and, when we came back to Lawrence, they had changed ownership and location. The intimacy of the old Bay Leaf seemed to be lost as did its retail focus and atmosphere. There were some new things possible (do love the cooking class opportunities) but the core retail heart had changed enough. It is the perogative of a business owner (new or old) to make changes to their business, but it's important to do those things for the right reasons. A troubled economy, some difficult downtown logistics combined with some untimely shifts in business practice can be an insurmountable combination. Still a sad outcome for a good name.

gccs14r 7 years, 1 month ago

Maybe the downtown merchants should try to put together a community website that lists all the stores, their locations (interactive map, anyone?), and what they sell. I've been in Lawrence for nearly 20 years and had no idea there was a dedicated kitchenware retailer downtown.

gccs14r 7 years, 1 month ago

Funny that The Bay Leaf isn't on that site, but The Merc is.

d_prowess 7 years, 1 month ago

Are you kidding me? You obviously must not then walk around downtown at all. You couldn't have walked past this store without seeing all of the kitchen stuff in the window. Sorry to be harsh, but your ignorance seems mind blowing!

Bursting 7 years, 1 month ago

Ignorance is a bit harsh, plenty of people live in this town and never make it downtown... chill out man...

gccs14r 7 years, 1 month ago

Generally south of 8th street, unless we've gone to Free State.

boxers_or_briefs 7 years, 1 month ago

I find it odd that the LJWorld has written this the day after Schumm is elected when he is their landlord and has campaigned for local businesses.

roadwarrior 7 years, 1 month ago

1 on top of 8, or more in some areas !!! yes, KRichards. Tell ya what ....ya'll keep voting your sales tax increases but don't be surprised when the next strong business fails.

tomatogrower 7 years, 1 month ago

Or maybe it is the ridiculously high rents that are charged. Developers came in and bought up property downtown for much more than they should have paid. The raised the value of the surrounding properties, so even those who owned their own buildings had to struggle. Then they charge such high rent, no locally owned store can afford them, so they bring in corporate stores, so we start looking just like a Mall or Legends.

notanota 7 years, 1 month ago

I'm fine paying the sales tax. In fact, I just paid it to two other Lawrence stores that aren't locally owned. What I'm not so good at is getting downtown within their limited store hours.

kinder_world 7 years, 1 month ago

Sorry to hear the Bay Leaf is closing, but do not blame it on the internet. I do shop in town but not downtown. It has been a long time since I have shopped downtown except for Weavers. Downtown is not a pretty place. People begging, food smells, bars, over priced stores, dirty streets. And yes the extra 1% increase in tax is taking its toll. It adds up at the grocery store, the phone bill, the cable bill (how about that nice increase in price at all levels), the newspaper (their sneaky price increase and less paper), utility bills, and the increase in the mill levies. And now charity for Treanor. No money left over to shop downtown, no money to shop the internet.

akt2 7 years, 1 month ago

kinder_world I agree. I have been going downtown Lawrence for over 40 years. My aunt had a business downtown when I was a child. I worked and shopped there for a good amount of my adult life. But you are right. It has changed. It's dirty. The panhandlers are always front and center. The parking is bad. It's just not worth my time or money anymore.

d_prowess 7 years, 1 month ago

I guess some people just have a much stronger reaction to seeing someone homeless or having to drive around the block once to park a car.
I have never been bothered by a homeless person downtown. Maybe that makes me special or maybe I look mean and so they stay away. But homeless folks downtown aren't even on my radar except when I read people talk about it here.
Next, I have never had a problem finding a parking spot. On the weekends, I rarely park on Mass because it is hard to find an open spot, but on either block east or west, I can easily find a spot on either the street or in the lots. Perhaps I just don't mind walking the block to wherever I am going and everyone else does. Again, I must be special in that way...

gminc 7 years, 1 month ago

It's up to all of us to deter the panhandlers:

don't give them any money tell them to go to the shelter if they need help call police non-emergency if they are really bothering you

geekin_topekan 7 years, 1 month ago

I hope that this place doesn't become a haven for people with "gender issues". If we allow them any rights, they'll be infesting our favorite restaurants just like they have done to our public restrooms.

Beware Lawrence, gender issues are going to be behind every tree.

Joseph Jarvis 7 years, 1 month ago

My partner is a die hard Bay Leaf fan. Geri and her staff always gave us excellent customer service. We'll be sad to seem 'em go.

To her larger point, assuming the Internet is displacing local specialty shops, how do communities retain/support those people?

dogsandcats 7 years, 1 month ago

It's a shame this place is closing but I wasn't even aware that it existed. Downtown is too inconvenient for shopping because of lack of parking. I'm willing to stroll a few blocks to go to dinner or out for a drink, but not lugging shopping bags back to my car.

notanota 7 years, 1 month ago

You have to lug bags just as far when you shop at a mall. That isn't to say that I don't agree that parking is still an issue.

hedshrinker 7 years, 1 month ago

Shocked someone would consider making major electronic purchases on the internet (and go to the convoluted trouble they did to avoid sales tax, etc).....partly b/c I'm an unsophisticated middleage consumer, but I want to buy from a full service, preferably local store for customer service (remember,:informative, helpful staff to educate, compare and contrast options and the all important after the sale service when things inevitably go wrong)...and let me add NOT from useless youngsters that look down their noses at anyone that needs help or who can't stand the blaring music.....lots of reasons to shop locally....$stays here, convenience. Very sad about Bay Leaf and Pink Box among others. Also cant believe west side people that won't come downtown with" the unwashed masses"......I think these are the same people that if they travel to Washington DC or NYC or San Francisco want to eat at chain restaurants because it's predictable. Pathetic!

whitecho 7 years, 1 month ago

It's all ready been said but ... For those who don't know there is a website that lists downtown businesses, what they sell, their hours.

For those who own & want to "band" together there's Downtown Lawrence Inc.

Same website.

New members, fresh ideas are always welcome.

Katara 7 years, 1 month ago

Would it be possible for the members of Downtown Lawrence, Inc. to provide a free class on how to set up your own business website?

It could include info as to how to pick a hosting site that is best for your needs, how to put up your inventory & other info related to running an internet business that will supplement your brick & mortar business.

oldvet 7 years, 1 month ago

That "free" class would last a month and have some very expensive consultants doing the teaching. Sure, you can put up a site and have a great design and great pictures, but if you don't know how to research it, set it up correctly, and most importantly, market your site, it will be another piece of junk floating around the internet with no hits. The Bay Leaf, which I like to visit when downtown, has a website, but unless you know the name of the store, you will never find it. Try searching for just about any product they sell and see if they show up on Google's first three pages... nobody can find them to buy from them and thus they were not able to effectively use the internet to supplement their business income. A good internet marketing job will let your brick/mortar store generate more sales from outside their area.

Katara 7 years, 1 month ago

There are plenty of inexpensive options out there. It is foolish not to explore them. But I guess it is more comfortable for some not to try new ideas.

Caroline Bennett 7 years, 1 month ago

I am very sad to hear that the Bayleaf is closing. It is my favorite downtown store, and probably my favorite store in Lawrence. I have done about 75% of my Christmas and birthday shopping at the Bayleaf the last couple of years, and will miss it greatly. This is a classy store, and a significant loss for Lawrence. :-(

farmgal 7 years, 1 month ago

barbm, i had the same problem. the last time i went in there, there were too employees working. one was puttering around the store, the other at the check-out counter. i went in looking for something specific. walked around the store looking for it and neither employee ever acknowledged me. it was like i was invisible. not a: "hello, how are you" or "hello, let me know if i can help you find anything." NOTHING! i never went back. there were no other customers in the store at the time, so being too busy wasn't the excuse.

farmgal 7 years, 1 month ago

i meant two employees, not too employees

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