Archive for Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Town Talk: Something spooky coming to vacant Borders store; comedy, bum steers and elastic waistbands at 19th and Haskell; another big fight looming near the airport

August 10, 2011, 10:07 a.m. Updated August 10, 2011, 11:17 a.m.


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News and notes from around town:

• Boo! You know, Boo, as in Boorders. I don’t think they’re going to take my name suggestion, but the rumor on the street is that the vacant Borders store at Seventh and New Hampshire will become a Halloween specialty store, at least for awhile. Word is that the Halloween Express chain is looking to locate in the building during the Halloween season. That makes some sense. There was a Halloween store last season near Kohl’s and Bed Bath and Beyond on South Iowa Street, but that location now is being filled by the new Hibachi Grill (yes, I’m trying to talk to those folks too). I’ve got some contact information for the people who I believe are the franchise owners of the new Halloween business. I’ll try to get in touch with them later today and give you more information. Something, though, certainly does seem to be going on at the site. Most of the for lease signs in the windows of the store have been taken down. I called the ownership group up in Michigan yesterday to get an update on the property, which I hear has been shown quite a bit. I’m still waiting to hear back from them. But as far as the Halloween store goes, what we hear is the store will open around Sept. 1. I still think Boorders would be a cool name. They could sell stock certificates from the Borders bookstore chain. Talk about scary.

UPDATE: I did get in touch with Gene Brake, who along with his wife owns the Halloween Express franchise in this area. Work is beginning on the store today. He hopes to be open by Sept. 1. The company has a lease through early November on the space, and yes, he plans to use pretty much the whole store.

"We'll bring in just about everything you can think of for Halloween," Brake said.

That means lots of kids costumes (they'll be near the front of the store) but as you go farther back it becomes a bit more spooky and adult oriented. The store also will sell giant props for those folks who feel candy and a pumpkin aren't enough. (Anybody up for an 8-foot Grim Reaper with wings?)

Brake also owns Halloween Express stores in Overland Park and Olathe. The store plans to be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to six on Sundays.

• Put this in the category of: Signs that caught my interest as I drove home from a City Commission meeting at 11:30 at night on Tuesday. (I wonder why they don’t let me write headlines here.) In the 19th and Haskell shopping center there is a new sign promoting something called the Very Serious Comedy Office. Is it a comedy club? A paper company run by Michael Scott? I don’t know. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough in the category title, but I saw this at 11:30 at night on Tuesday. I was on my way home from a City Commission meeting. It is now 7:30 a.m. when I write this, so I haven’t found anybody yet that can tell me about the business, but I’ll keep looking. The comedy sign is just north of the Crosstown Tavern that also is located in the shopping center. Just south of the Crosstown Tavern is a sign for Bum Steer Catering. Bum Steer has been around Lawrence for a long time, and once had a storefront location on South Iowa Street many years ago. Not sure whether this location will be just strictly about catering or whether people will be able to drop in and get some barbecue. I’ll let you know. And finally, it does look like the Haskell Diner that is in that same shopping center at 19th and Haskell is expanding, and is hoping to help a few elastic waistbands expand as well. The diner is now advertising an all-you-can-eat dinner buffet from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. I believe those are new hours for the diner. (UPDATE: I stopped by this morning. The diner is actually closed today. It is going through a complete remodel for the buffett. It plans to open Thursday for breakfast and lunch, and hopes to have the buffet open by the end of the week.) Anyway, who knew you could see so much interesting stuff at 19th and Haskell at 11:30 at night? Well, maybe some of you knew.

• As I think I mentioned, I was at a City Commission meeting for quite awhile last night. The big topic? Well, you know the city was dealing with that unique SRS deal that involves paying the state to keep the state’s office open in Lawrence. So, that must have been it, huh? Not really. City commissioners heard about two hours of public comment on the Northeast Sector Plan — a plan that will provide a blueprint for development of Grant Township and the area near the Lawrence Municipal Airport. So, the plan must have been at its critical juncture last night, huh? Not really. In fact, it was already known before the meeting what was going to happen to the plan. It was going to get sent back to the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission for more debate. Douglas County Commissioners — who also must approve the plan before it can become final — set it on that path weeks ago.

All city commissioners were doing was deciding whether they wanted to ask the Planning Commission to review anything in particular about the plan. So, in other words, there is going to be at least three more public hearings on this plan — one at planning, one at city and one at county. (And the smart money is betting there will be a lot more than three before we’re done.) I don’t bring any of this up to criticize the people who came to City Hall last night. Trust me, I’m used to hearing a lot of people talk on a Tuesday night. But I bring it up to highlight how much of a debate there is between industrial/development interests and North Lawrence neighborhood/environmental interests. They debated for about two hours on Tuesday, and the issue isn’t even close to being decided yet.

In a nutshell, I think it comes down to this: The area near the airport is seen as one that could attract a major industrial user. It is near the interstate, near air service, and perhaps rail service could be extended to the site for the right user. But it also is in a low lying area, next to North Lawrence, which has suffered plenty of stormwater flooding problems in the past. North Lawrence residents say any new development in the area would require millions of dollars of infrastructure improvements to ensure that flooding doesn’t get worse in North Lawrence. Simply put, North Lawrence residents worry the city would not follow through on those improvements. But economic development types say they understand those concerns. That is why they’re only asking for about 200 acres of industrial land to be included in the plan. The rest of the 10,000 acres of Grant Township largely would remain as farmland, under the proposed plan. And, the eco devo types say the city has plenty of rules in its site planning regulations to ensure a new project doesn’t make flooding worse. North Lawrence residents say Bahaaaaaw! (That is a laugh, by the way. Not a wounded sheep.) North Lawrence Neighborhood Association President Ted Boyle points out that the neighborhood has been waiting for 20 years for a needed stormwater pumping station at North Fifth and Maple streets. So, the last compromise was that the industrial development in the area would be geared to “soil-conserving agri-industry.” But that term is never really defined in the plan.

The debate takes an interesting twist in that it is not the traditional set up of neighbors vs. industry. Many of the largest farmers and landowners in Grant Township have supported the plan as written, or even would like more industrial development included in it. The opposition has come from the North Lawrence neighborhood, some smaller specialty farmers in the area, and environmentalists. The environmentalists are concerned about allowing prime agricultural soils to be built upon. They’re convinced we’ll need those soils in the future to grow local food, plus the soils are good at naturally sucking up stormwater.

I think the prime ag ground issue worries the eco devo types as much as anything. I believe that they think that if they don’t get this plan through, that the precedent will be set that you can’t build on good ag ground anytime. Then that creates a scenario where we spend a lot of time arguing about whether a piece of soil is good ag ground. Whether that would be the reality or not, I don’t know. But I do think that is the worry among some groups. If you are keeping score (at this point I’m just happy if you’re still reading), the Planning Commission has narrowly approved the plan. The County Commission has narrowly rejected it. City commissioners are still waiting on the bench. All this has happened over the course of about two years. Now, the process returns for a new round. The planning commission has several new members, so who knows what it thinks about the debate these days. Probably the biggest question is whether it will take another two years. In the meantime, Lawrence still doesn’t have a major site along I-70 to offer to industrial prospects. The sites near the Lecompton interchange are still in litigation. What, you don’t know about that fight? Forget it. My summary machine is out of gas for the day.


KULHSLIONSfan 6 years, 6 months ago

I hope the rumor for the Halloween Express coming to town for a short period of time does not become a reality. It is unfortunate that a business such as Fun and Games has to contend with these national chains for local business dollars during the peak season. Fun and Games is locally owned and is a part of the community. The halloween season dollars most likely makes it possible for Fun and Games to survive the rest of the year.

gatekeeper 6 years, 6 months ago

I support Fun & Games, but they don't offer a lot of the items that Halloween Express does. I really do my house up for Halloween and Halloween Express is the only place that sells good decorations. Fun & Games is mainly costumes.

Thinking_Out_Loud 6 years, 6 months ago

gatekeeper, if you ask F&G to do a special order for you, they will. That will do several positive things: first, it supports a local Mom-and-Pop store. Second, it supports a long-time Lawrence business. Third, it let's the F&G owners know what they're not carrying that their customers want. Fourth, it returns Lawrence dollars to the Lawrence tax base since their owners, employees, landlords, etc. are all local. Fifth, it makes you feel good that you've been such a good local business supporter.

tweetysvoice 6 years, 6 months ago

I feel the same. Walking around the big halloween stores gives us inspiration for our yearly halloween haunted yard. I was hoping something like this would come to town since the Spirit store's previous location is now occupied. At least I don't have to drive to KC for our halloween shopping fix!

Kelly Johnson 6 years, 6 months ago

The seasonal Halloween stores have been popping up every fall for several years now, and it doesn't seem to have drastically hurt business for Fun and Games yet. When I have been in Fun and Games to look for costumes, there are always a lot of people there. And, as gatekeeper points out, the seasonal Halloween stores sell a lot of Halloween merchandise that Fun and Games does not. My guess is that Walmart, Target, and Walgreens probably pose more competition to F&G than Halloween Express because Walmart, Target and Walgreens sell their costumes for half of what you can get them for at F&G.

parrothead8 6 years, 6 months ago

To be fair, though, the seasonal Halloween stores have usually located across town, near Target and Wal-Mart. This time it's going to be right outside of Fun & Games' back door.

gatekeeper 6 years, 6 months ago

Fun and Games had moved to 23rd St for a while and it didn't hurt them then. The Halloween Store was on the south side of town then.

Thinking_Out_Loud 6 years, 6 months ago

Nonsense. Of course it did--they were just able to absorb it. Halloween is F&G's bread-and-butter. I'll bet they make 90% of their sales between September 1 and December 26. Preferring to support them over a chain will certainly help them, and preferring the seasonal chain will certainly hurt.

thepianoman 6 years, 6 months ago

Chad, can you look into where P-King is moving????

Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 6 months ago

I am looking into it. I tried to track the owner down yesterday, but had no luck. I will continue searching though. And to head off another question, I'm also trying to get in touch with the fellow who has planned to re-open Vermont Street BBQ. Still no word on why that project doesn't seem to be moving forward. Thanks, Chad

somedude20 6 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

somedude20 6 years, 6 months ago

Thank you for the info. You should get part of Chad's paycheck!

Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 6 months ago

I don't know what the question was. When a post gets yanked, it gets yanked from my view too. If it was about Fuzzy's Tacos, here's what we had back in June. He told me that they hoped to open by the end of August.

Do I get to keep all my paycheck? Thanks, Chad

somedude20 6 years, 6 months ago

You can have 1/3 of it back, thanks for being a good sport Chad!

Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 6 months ago

Word from a representative of Peking Taste is that the restaurant will reopen in September at 2223 Louisiana Street. That's the Louisiana Purchase Shopping Center area, which includes Mr. Goodcents, Don Don Japanese Carryout and several other businesses. Still checking on the exact space, and whether the restaurant will be carry out only or will continue to have its buffet. Hope to have more in tomorrow's Town Talk.

Chad Lawhorn Journal-World

bornherelongago 6 years, 6 months ago

Word on the street is that there is a flap about the cost of the tenant improvements.

Brent Fry 6 years, 6 months ago

I don't know exactly where The Taste is moving, but I do know they won't offer a buffet anymore. It will be strictly carryout I believe.

gatekeeper 6 years, 6 months ago

Residents in N. Lawrence have learned to not trust anything the city tells us. For example - why haven't they still repaved the roads that were the detour route when the redid the intersection by Johhny's? The remaining streets that they just left are falling apart and they just keep patching potholes when residents complain. We were told they would redo them last fall. Then told March. We're still waiting. I seriously had Mike Wildgen tell me years ago that the city isn't concerned with issues in N. Lawrence.

Paula Kissinger 6 years, 6 months ago

Yeah...what happened to Peking Taste ? It's like they hurriedly closed the doors, took their neon sign and booked !

Boston_Corbett 6 years, 6 months ago

Give it a rest, pianoman.

I am sure Chad, like the rest of us, has read your multiple previous requests. His job is not to spin on a dime and investigate every single restaurant move. When he knows something, he tells us. And maybe Peking doesn't want to tell you what they don't have to.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 6 months ago

That's not true. According to the Freedom of Information Act, we are allowed to know where every Chinese restaurant is at all times - even during periods of transition. Just another example of a person who hates America.

The more you know...

EarthaKitt 6 years, 6 months ago

Absolutely right - they call it the dim sum-shine law.


LogicMan 6 years, 6 months ago

It might be his job. Since the decline of print newspapers, due to instant and free global news access on the Internet, they've had to focus on local issues to survive. People are interested in local shopping and dining, so news of them is quite relevant. Chad, keep it up!

DanR 6 years, 6 months ago

Any news about what is going into the former Old Chicago space on S. Iowa?

DanR 6 years, 6 months ago

Thanks. Before asking, I swear I used the the LJW search for "Old Chicago" function and it did not find this.

pizzapete 6 years, 6 months ago

Yea, what's the deal with that? I can never find stories I'm looking for online using the LJ's search function. Someone needs to fix it!

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

In my experience, the LJWorld search function worked quite well until what a former employee of LJWorld (Jerry Hall) referred to as "the new system" was put into service.

After that, it never worked worth a ,,, well, some word that is four letters long, but exactly what that word is escapes my mind. I must be getting Old Timer's.

Keith 6 years, 6 months ago

They should just pull the search function out and put in a Google link.

Jonathan Kealing 6 years, 6 months ago

It's definitely on our list of things we want to fix. Hopefully soon. Sorry about it.

Smarmy_Schoolmarm 6 years, 6 months ago

That would be great really is hard to find things on the site once they're history.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

A expression commonly thrown around these days is that you should live within your means.

When it comes to feeding ourselves, fertile soils are the means. Reducing those means while our population continues to increase is really pretty stupid.

overthemoon 6 years, 6 months ago

Especially when there are already mucked up properties just a mile west along n 2nd the beautiful and so successful Tanger Mall building....

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

Yes, and it's right by the Interstate too. That's always a surefire formula for success, right?

overthemoon 6 years, 6 months ago

Unless its crappy retail! If its light industrial or something along those lines, its a great location.

Rusty Thomas 6 years, 6 months ago

Chad - All of your info is spot-on. It really helps keep me informed. Here is a question: Schmidt Lumber on 24/59 appears to be closed. Everytime I drive by, at least twice a day, there is a vehicle sitting outside the locked gate. Any idea about what is happening?

Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 6 months ago

My understanding is they have closed all their locations. It was a very quick shutdown. I generally don't like to speculate about why a business has closed, and since I don't have anything concrete, I'll just leave it at that. I am checking to see what may happen to their North Lawrence property though. Thanks, Chad

alfie 6 years, 6 months ago

Topeka, KAN. (WIBW)—A Kansas-based builder's supply business is closing up shop. After 40 years, Schmidt Builder’s Supply is losing their stores due to foreclosure.

Mike Tumey owns Go To Guys Roofing and Remodeling. Now, Tumey says he's the one with no one to go to.

"It’s almost like they've turned their back, no one wants to answer phone calls, can't get hold of anybody,” said Tumey.

Tumey recently spent more than $6 thousand at Schmidt Builder's Supply in north Topeka. When he went Tuesday to pick his shingles and a gutter apron for a new roofing job, he left empty-handed.

"I feel like I’m getting robbed. How else do I put it? I already paid for material, come out of clients. That’s their money,” said Tumey.

Management has released no information after all six locations posted closed for business signs Wednesday. 13 News was there when Kaw Valley bank reps began cleaning house.

“It hurts, it hurts,” said former employee, Ron Miller.

Miller says it was a great place to work. He did so as a home designer for 17 years. Miller says Schmidt’s was forced into foreclose because lots of builders did not pay their debts.

"We weren't able to pay ours too, got us into this financial shape."

"I was ompletely blown away. Figure Schmidt’s been in business for over 40 years, reputable company. I would never expect that,” said Tumey.

Instead of working on a new roof Wednesday as scheduled, Tumey and his six-man crew are trying to survive with small jobs.

"I really don't know what I’m going to do... didn't see it coming,” said Tuney.

We reached out to the company by phone and personal visit. So far, no word if customers like Tumey will get their materials or a refund.

Bob Forer 6 years, 6 months ago

Don't folks have more meaning and substance in their life than waste time and money decorating their homes for a holiday that owes its continued existence to the Candy industry.

Bob Forer 6 years, 6 months ago

Good point. I don't understand the Christmas/Easter thing either. One would figure medieval beliefs and practices would have ended with medievalism.

ilovelucy 6 years, 6 months ago

Thanks for the good laughs Chad. Your puns are funny.

shadowlady 6 years, 6 months ago

Ya hoo, finally an American Food buffet, without going to a non- American restaurant. Authenic American food needs to be prepared by Americans, chineese food or asian, needs to be prepared by chineese or Asians, same with Mexican foods, etc. etc. etc. I've been to restaurants, where they try to fix foods out of their culture, and it is always gross. I like chineese, Mexican, Italian, but there is nothing like good ole down home country cooking restaurants, and those are getting harder and harder to find anymore. I remember Pa and Ma's Cafe right there at the end of Elm St. just off of the bridge. My parents used to take us kids there after church on Sundays.

overthemoon 6 years, 6 months ago

I avoid 'cross-eating'...taco pizzas etc. Unless its at a very create and most likely expensive restaurant where the creative mix of cultural cuisine can be terrific.

Thinking_Out_Loud 6 years, 6 months ago

Really, shadowlady? That seems like a shallow pov.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

Just about all food prepared here in the United States is American Food because we are mostly a nation of immigrants that brought our favorite foods from whereever we came from.

There are some exceptions, and they are referred to as Native Americans. So I suppose a good example of Authentic American Food would be buffalo meat, along with corn and many other fruits and vegetables that the Native Americans have eaten for thousands of years.

Any other food would not really be American. For instance an excellent example of a non American food would be something named after Hamburg, Germany, or maybe something French, like French Fries. I've been told that what we refer to as French Fries is called American Fries in France, but I don't know for sure.

Sausage? That's German.

Cheese? Well, that's complex, but it's certainly not American. From Wikipedia, which may not be accurate: "Cheese is an ancient food whose origins predate recorded history. There is no conclusive evidence indicating where cheese making originated, either in Europe, Central Asia or the Middle East, but the practice had spread within Europe prior to Roman times and, according to Pliny the Elder, had become a sophisticated enterprise by the time the Roman Empire came into being."

It appears as though where ever it originated, cheese is certainly not an American food, because the Native Americans never ate it.

Beef? Anything but American, because cattle were introduced from the Old World, where their origins are shrouded in antiquity.

I am quite sure that if really want authentic American food, you could make an inquiry at Haskell Indian Nations University, and perhaps someone there could guide you to what you apparently want, which is authentic American food.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 6 months ago

True Entitlements

The one consequence that usually goes unmentioned by the local media,city hall and elected officials - local profiteers and their entitlements are draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.


These range from the obvious to the obscure and include big projects-like the billions we spend on new roads as well as smaller ones-like the tax-breaks that encourage businesses to move to the edge of town and KILL downtown.

We've subsidized local profiteers at such a basic level for so long, that many people believe the status quo is actually fair and neutral. This is false-what we think of as a level playing field is tilted steeply in favor of local profiteers driving development.

How we subsidize profiteers:

  • building new and wider roads
  • building schools on the fringe
  • extending sewer and water lines to not necessary development
  • extending emergency services to the fringe
  • direct pay-outs to developers - for example developers of the new building at 9th and New Hampshire are demanding taxpayers furnish their tenants with parking spaces built with our tax dollars.

Why should we taxpayers pick up that tab?

Why would a bank approve a loan if a project had no parking for it's tenants?

Again... The one consequence that usually goes unmentioned by the local media,city hall and elected officials = local profiteers and their entitlements are draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

Every once in a while I am frustrated by the 3,000 character limit on postings here. And then, very often I'm reminded that a 3,000 character limit is a very good thing. Because with that limit, if someone gets a bit off subject, at least we won't have to scroll down very far.

Julie Jacob 6 years, 6 months ago

Thanks for checking in the Haskell Diner, Chad. I'm looking forward to a buffet close to home that the family can enjoy. Each one of us likes something a bit different and I love it when I can provide a family dining experience at a decent cost and LOCAL!

Richard Heckler 6 years, 6 months ago

That diner location has been around for some time. How my father and mother ever discovered that diner I'll never know. It was however one of their favorites.

somebodynew 6 years, 6 months ago

Chad - If you really want to see interesting at 19/Haskell go by there a little later and on a weekend. Probably not anything to write about in this column, but I bet you would find "interesting".

somedude20 6 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, um that diner is in a bad location if you are there at the wrong time. Less drunks during the day but at night, bring a handgun. Many of the bags of scum that call Lawrence home like that place a lot. They drink their juice all day (while thinking of new ways to rob/steal increase their social welfare monies) until they are ready to explode and many times, that has been gun fire. If you eat at that shopping center (which has a video pron store, payday loan, parole office (my fav) and a liquor store) go during the day!!

Julie Jacob 6 years, 6 months ago

The parole office moved to the same strip mall as Set'Em Up Jacks.

There has been gunfire, twice in 2011 that I know of. Not a great track record, but it could be worse in that location.

gccs14r 6 years, 6 months ago

It's not called the Crossfire Tavern for nothing.

pace 6 years, 6 months ago

the soil north of the river is considered some of the best agricultural soil in the world. "The estimate is that we are now losing about 1 percent of our topsoil every year to erosion, most of this caused by agriculture."

hs_reader 6 years, 6 months ago

Is there a source for this "best agricultural soil in the world" claim, or is this just an opinion?

gatekeeper 6 years, 6 months ago

If you lived there, you wouldn't question pace's comment. Right now, my tomato plants have grown over my 6' tall fence and are cascading down the other side about 4'. My friends in W. Lawrence have little stubby tomato plants. I planted my green bean rows more than two feet apart and once they grew in, you couldn't even tell there were rows. It's one of the great advantages of living there.

Hundreds of years of flooding and sandy soil = kick *ss gardens.

pace 6 years, 6 months ago

There are a variety of soil rankings. That Kaw valley soil is ranked by several as some of the best soil in the world. I don't do basic easily researched information spoon feeding for lazy louts.

Jonathan Fox 6 years, 6 months ago

I'd be REALLY excited if Bum Steer actually had an actual restaurant. I've really missed their OUTSTANDING bbq ever since they got snuffed out of the KU basketball concessions by the sub contractor that runs concessions for those games.

ralphralph 6 years, 6 months ago

What? A legitimate local business getting snuffed by KU Athletics Corporation? Hard to believe ...

bandmom 6 years, 6 months ago

The Halloween store that was over by Bed, Bath, and Beyond was a Spirit Halloween store.

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