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Archive for Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Town Talk: Downtown Lawrence hires director; Barnes & Noble to Borders?; Pink Box bakery looking at changes; downtown lighting overhaul

February 22, 2011

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News and notes from around town:

• Downtown Lawrence Inc. has a new director. Longtime Lawrence writer and TV host Cathy Hamilton has been hired to take over the top spot for the organization.

Hamilton previously worked for The World Company, the parent company of LJWorld.com, in several positions, including as the host of the "Home & Away" television program, a columnist and marketing manager and director of BoomerGirl.com.

Hamilton fills a position that has been vacant since early January, when the DLI board and director Jane Pennington parted ways.

Check back later to hear some thoughts from Hamilton on her new job.

• No, I haven’t heard any serious rumors about what may go into the soon-to-be-vacated Borders bookstore at Seventh and New Hampshire. But Barnes & Noble executives have sparked speculation that they make take over some of the locations that Borders is closing as part of its bankruptcy. In a conference call Tuesday, Barnes & Noble’s CEO said that a “minority” of Borders' closed stores “appear attractive to us,” according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. In a sign that they may be serious about moving into some of the locations, Barnes & Noble suspended its stock dividend on Tuesday to take advantage of “market opportunities,” according to the Journal. Who knows if Barnes & Noble is actually interested in Lawrence. But one interesting statistic is that about 75 percent of the 200 stores Borders is closing are in direct competition with a Barnes & Noble store. Lawrence, of course, falls into the 25 percent category that doesn’t directly compete with a Barnes & Noble. Maybe that increases Lawrence’s chances. Maybe it doesn’t.

• A sign showed up on the door of downtown Lawrence’s Pink Box Bakery, 727 Mass., announcing that the sweet shop was set to close on Feb. 27. But store owner Michele Kaminski told me today that is no longer the case. Instead, the store will stay open until at least March 15 to allow for a potential sale of the business to be completed. Kaminski said she’s recently had four people express an interest in buying the business and recipes. Kaminski said she wants to give such a deal every chance to happen. She said the business has struggled some like start-ups do, but that the business model is still good. She said she’s leaving the business because it has become more difficult for her to devote the necessary amount of time to the baking.

“The quality of my baking needs a lot of attention,” Kaminski said. “I’ve realized I can’t keep working 20 hours a day because I’m not as young as I used to be. But this is a great opportunity for a couple of young bakers.

Kaminski opened Pink Box in 2009 after leaving a long career in marketing. She said she now plans to get back into the marketing business.

• Bicyclists in Lawrence may have fewer rules to abide by in the near future. City commissioners at their meeting tonight are scheduled to tweak two rules on how bicyclists must ride in the city. The first is a change regarding when bicyclists can ride on sidewalks. Technically, the city law says bikers can’t ride on any sidewalk within 100 feet of a store or business. The city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee recently determined that when the code was written in 1979, city leaders probably were just trying to stop bikers from riding on downtown sidewalks. So, the BAC is asking city commissioners to change the code to make it clear that the sidewalk prohibition is just for downtown. If you’re like me, you might have already thought that was the case. I’m not sure many people were getting tickets for riding on other sidewalks.

The second change involves when bicyclists can ride two abreast on city streets. Currently, a 1997 ordinance prohibits bikers from riding two-abreast on any city “street, alley or sidewalk.” That’s more restrictive than the state law. State law allows riders to ride up to two-abreast. The BAC is recommending that the city revert back to state law.

• It sure appears downtown Lawrence will start showing up in a different light. City commissioners at their meeting tonight are expected to set aside about $170,000 in federal grant money to replace about 100 street lights in downtown. The new lights will be higher-efficiency LED lights. The funding comes from $858,000 in stimulus funding that the city received in 2009. The bulk of that money was used to hire a sustainability coordinator and for HVAC and lighting upgrades to the Lawrence Public Library. But city leaders said at the time that they expected there would be money left over to use for downtown lighting. No word yet on whether the lights will look much different than what’s in place today. The city is still settling on a specific light to buy. Those details will be finalized in March. Installation would begin in May.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. today at City Hall.

Comments

Richard Andrade 3 years, 11 months ago

I know this has been bandied about for the Borders building, but a Trader Joes sure would go nicely in there, plus feed the need for a downtown grocery store. Just sayin'...

Also, just noticed that Teapouro on Mass Ave seems to be closed now as well...

TheShaman 3 years, 11 months ago

I never found Trader Joe's to be high priced. When living in Boston I found it to be competitive to Shaw's and Stop n Shop (the two bigger chains I had within walking distance) and FAR cheaper than the Whole Foods, which I would guess would draw away more customer's than the regular big box groceries.

Count me as one who would LOVE a Trader Joe's downtown, or anywhere in Lawrence.

Adrienne Sanders 3 years, 11 months ago

You've never been to a Trader Joe's, have you? It's high quality at reasonable prices.

hildirid 3 years, 11 months ago

Totally agree with the replies. We stock up when we're in a town with a TJs because their prices are so good.

Jonathan Kealing 3 years, 11 months ago

Plus, it's also worth mentioning that one of the things people love most about Trader Joe's is its impressive wine selection. In Kansas, barring a change in state law, Trader Joe's can't sell wine.

guesswho 3 years, 11 months ago

There is a Trader Joe's opening up in Leawood (and on the KCMO side as well)- I wonder how they will work the liquor - if they will have a separate store like World Market used to or not sell liquor. Maybe they are banking on the state law changing.

tcs 3 years, 11 months ago

The one in Kansas won't have alcohol.

ralphralph 3 years, 11 months ago

They're working on that "change in state law" stuff, right now, in Topeka. Anybody called their State Rep and/or Senator?

EJ Mulligan 3 years, 11 months ago

Trader Joe's never opens in a city that does not have at least one Whole Foods. That is their business model. So, until Lawrence gets a Whole Foods, quit asking for a Trader Joe's. Ain't gonna happen.

ralphralph 3 years, 11 months ago

Is this the Burger King store-location model from the 70's? Watch the deed transfer records for McDonald's to buy a spot, then poach a lot across the street? Saves a bunch of research money, I suppose, but limits you to someone else's imagination.

Crystal Patterson 3 years, 11 months ago

Teapouro has been closed for a couple of months, it was my favorite place to study and one day in December I went downtown to study and there was no more Teapouro. I love the set-up inside, I wish a similar tea house would open there.

Richard Renner 3 years, 11 months ago

The one thing that prevents Trader Joe's from being in Kansas is the fact that they can't sell beer and wine in their store here. That is a large part of their profits and even they know that a man can't exist on bread alone - he needs a good cheap wine to go with it.

pace 3 years, 11 months ago

Congratulations Downtown Inc. I applaud.

lawrencechick 3 years, 11 months ago

What were the hours of the pink box? I stopped there on 3 separate occasions, in the middle of the day, and it was closed every time. Bizarre business model...

Arana 3 years, 11 months ago

They normally close around 5 or 6, but will close early if they run out of bake goods.

bocktar 3 years, 11 months ago

Two-abreast cycling on streets that don't allow passing sounds like a really bad idea. Almost as bad as adding cycling lanes without widening affected roads, and abruptly terminating them at roundabouts and other horizontal speed inhibitors.

Getting rid of the sidewalk ban except for downtown sounds like a good idea.

I like cycling, but I don't trust cars when I'm doing it, and we shouldn't promote a false sense of safety or security when it comes to this matter.

northtowngrl 3 years, 11 months ago

I think the cookie delivery kids should check into the Pinkbox space. Maybe there's a way for them to work out a deal for a storefront space.

Clark Coan 3 years, 11 months ago

Does it make sense to allow bicyclists to ride two abreast on streets such as 23rd? Absolutely, not! It's too dangerous. All it takes is one inattentive driver and squish.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 11 months ago

Speaking as a bike rider, it really doesn't make any sense to ride on 23rd at all, unless there is absolutely no other choice, (and there usually is.)

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

Unfortunately, bikers often do things that don't make any sense.

frankfussman 3 years, 11 months ago

On 23rd, I ride on the sidewalks and/or through the parking lots and access spaces.

Violet 3 years, 11 months ago

I will miss the pink box - enjoyed visiting them after long bike rides last summer! However, the hours are what did that place in. They were always changing and were often (usually) closed. Recently they started opening at 10am on weekends, which is WAY past bakery breakfast time for most of us. Hope something works out for the space that is as tasty!

MyName 3 years, 11 months ago

That probably boils down to not having enough income to hire more people to mind the store and bake. If you gotta do both then the hours are going to be more limited.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 11 months ago

Any business in Borders would be better than an empty building. I hope the city helps any prospective tenant.

whats_going_on 3 years, 11 months ago

I thought that you could ride on the sidewalks already. I've never been told not to. Depending on the sidewalk I don't always like to because they tend to be crappy, but clinton parkway is so nice. No way in h*ll I'm going to ride down that road on the street. The turn on Kasold and 31st scares me enough.

hildirid 3 years, 11 months ago

The reason I thought B&N might be a possibility is that Lawrence is just about the only university town in this part of the country without one. They are a major player in the college textbook market.

somedude20 3 years, 11 months ago

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

somedude20 3 years, 11 months ago

what, you took away my harmless post? I was just talking bout the size of Hooter's stores. Guess you are not a fan of Hooters, I am

jackpot 3 years, 11 months ago

Hey Chad:"News and notes from around tow" Ok you got me hooked.

average 3 years, 11 months ago

I'm calling zero odds on b+n at that location. Square footage problem. It was one of the smallest stores in the entire Borders chain, and b+n prefers larger locations than Borders did.

TJ makes sense in terms of square footage and preferring downtown locations. Make it so.

blindrabbit 3 years, 11 months ago

Has anybody heard when Borders is actually closing!

jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

They have to be closed by the end of April, but that's all that's known right now.

GUMnNUTS 3 years, 11 months ago

No way a Trader Joes moves to Lawrence. Miss them from my days in San Diego just like IKEA, but this is to small of a market for them.

hawkstate 3 years, 11 months ago

A Borders employee told us that they would be closing sometime in April.

richfree 3 years, 11 months ago

Anyone know if the city has a speed limit for bicycles on city sidewalks ? Also, who would be liable when a bicyclist hits a pedestrian on city sidewalks? These accidents have happened in the past, will happen again.

Loretta Ybarra 3 years, 11 months ago

Cathy Hamilton is a great choice for downtown Lawrence.

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