Archive for Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Town Talk: Penny Annie’s Sweet Shop to close; sales tax collections up by nearly 4 percent in city; supporter of guns on campus bill thinks 2012 may be the year

June 7, 2011


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News and notes from around town:

• Well, there is nothing sweet about this. A downtown institution is closing later this month. An owner of Penny Annie’s Sweet Shop confirmed to me that the store plans to shut down during the last weekend of June. It will bring to a close a business that has been operating in Lawrence for 32 years, with the last 25 of them at its location at 845 Mass. Owner Monica Bowers-Istas said sales have been struggling for the past four years. Some of it, she said, is related to the overall economy. But she also believes the business’ troubles can be traced to the trend of fewer traditional retailers in downtown.

“We just don’t have the foot traffic anymore,” she said.

She said when downtown had a larger mix of eclectic shops and stores, her business was more likely to get walk-in traffic from shoppers who decided they needed to treat their sweet tooth.

She also said the fact the store doesn’t own the building it is in at 845 Mass. made it more difficult to keep the business open.

“If we owned the building, we probably could hang in there a little longer, but rents in downtown are difficult,” she said.

No word yet on what may go into the location.

Bowers-Istas, though, is betting that it won’t be anything more fun than what she has done for the last 23 years.

“It is hard to leave because my kids have grown up here,” she said. “And when you are selling candy, you are always making people happy.”

• Other businesses, though, may have reason to take heart. There are signs that spending in Lawrence is starting to pick up. Through the first five months of the year, the city’s sales tax collections are up 3.7 percent — or about $410,000 from the same time period a year ago. That’s a big number for Lawrence, given that the last two years have produced declines in sales tax collections. But city budget makers are still urging caution in evaluating the numbers. The threat of a setback is still possible with rising energy costs and relatively high unemployment still major parts of the overall economy. The city’s finance office projects that, despite the good news for the first five months of the year, sales tax collections may still be about $90,000 short of the city’s budget at year end.

• As I told you I would, I checked in with the Kansas Attorney General’s office related to some concealed carry legislation that we discussed in Town Talk last week. Here's that article. The A.G. is awful mum on the subject of what he thinks the state’s concealed carry laws ought to be. But I also talked to State Rep. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, who is not mum about his plans to get a concealed carry bill passed that would make it easier to carry a weapon at KU and other public facilities. Knox has legislation waiting for the 2012 session that would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring their weapons into any public facility, unless the facility provides adequate security measures like electronic scanners that would search everyone for weapons. If passed, that would mean buildings at KU, City Halls, Parks and Recreation centers and lots of other places would be areas where concealed carry permit holders could bring their weapons. Currently, all those places can put up a no guns sign that stops permit holders from bringing their weapons. Knox thinks next session is his best chance to get the bill passed. It previously has won approval in the House, but has not gotten very far in the Senate. But the 2012 session will be an election year session for the Senate. Knox said his bill is popular with people across the state, and senators are smart enough to know that.

“Some of the Senate leaders didn’t speak very kindly of it this year, but I have found the Senate seems to act a little differently in election years,” Knox said.

• We previously reported that a Lawrence law office was moving into office space in the Hobbs Taylor Lofts building at Eighth and New Hampshire streets. But we didn’t know which law firm. Now we do. The local firm of Fagan, Emert & Davis will move from its offices in the US Bank Tower to the Hobbs Taylor building in September, state Rep. Paul Davis, who is a partner in the firm, told me.


Richard Heckler 4 years, 4 months ago

Too bad the Chamber of Commerce or NOT COMMERCE does not support the downtown membership.

Instead they keep coming up with ideas that kills downtown. They are always ready to give our tax dollars away to the moochers who come to town. And the moochers who live in the area.

They believe moving real estate for the "insiders" is far more important than maintaining a strong tight knit economy that pays for itself everyday.

High rent is unfriendly to business!

Inflated property values is unfriendly to business!

Inflated property taxes is unfriendly to business!

Economic Displacement is unfriendly to business!

The chamber and MD Management is unfriendly to taxpayers!

The local real estate industry is unfriendly to business and taxpayers!

gl0ck0wn3r 4 years, 4 months ago

"Inflated property taxes is unfriendly to business!"

Which explains why you promote increased taxes for your pork projects?

cj123 4 years, 4 months ago

I loved Penny Annie's haystacks! They were pretty expensive but they were so good! I also liked getting their chocolate covered expresso beans. Maybe I should go get some before they close!

d_prowess 4 years, 4 months ago

Again, comments from a downtown shop owner that are not based in any facts, just their speculation. Perhaps business has declined because people are eating less bulk sweets. Maybe not, but it is just as possible as their opinion.

CreatureComforts 4 years, 4 months ago

I am not saying you don't, you know the business environment of Penny Annie's better than the owner of Penny Annie's?

d_prowess 4 years, 4 months ago

I am not saying I have the answers, but her statement is no different than the others that have been thrown out by downtown merchants that are only based on what they "think" is going on. Have there been any studies done that show a drop in walking traffic downtown to support her allegation? I don't feel like I have seen any, but maybe I missed it. I guess I am just fairly skeptical of unsupported opinions...

he_who_knows_all 4 years, 4 months ago

She sure didn't lose any money from remodeling in the last 23 years.

clovis_sangrail 4 years, 4 months ago

Drat! The one place downtown you could walk in the back and use the restroom without getting any hassle from the employees or having to climb over piles of boxes. And a relatively clean restroom, too.

gatekeeper 4 years, 4 months ago

If she wanted to increase business - she could have made a killing if she was open later. Sweets from her shop would be nice after dinner and college students would love to binge on sweets after a night of drinking or staying up late studying (remember old Joe's Bakery?). I'm sad to see the shop close, but to stay in business you sometimes have to modify your business plan to fit the current people visiting downtown.

sourpuss 4 years, 4 months ago

Yeah, I agree - nothing like some popcorn and a fountain drink on a warm summer night, or an ice cream cone or float. The ice cream stores have also cut into her market share.

d_prowess 4 years, 4 months ago

This is sort of what I was getting at from my above post. There seems to be a lot of possible reasons why their business has experienced a decline in business other than their stated opinion of what caused their decreasing revenues.

Sean Rudisel 4 years, 4 months ago

My kids just about went into full riot mode when I told them the store closing. Very, very disappointing.

Tammy Copp-Barta 4 years, 4 months ago

So did mine ... so sad ... here's one family that will miss you!

EarthaKitt 4 years, 4 months ago

Add my family too. I'm devastated. My kids are going to panic.

guesswho 4 years, 4 months ago

I will be sad to see them close, but the kitchen help hasn't always been, well, helpful. Also too bad the kitchen isn't open on Sundays, last year they could have done quite well during the 4th of July bike races.

William Weissbeck 4 years, 4 months ago

If carrying a "big gun" floats your boat, so be it. But a doctor friend of mine pointed out that if you own a handgun you are more likely to be shot by it by your spouse than you are to use it on a buglar.

DillonBarnes 4 years, 4 months ago

Ha, a "doctor friend."

Well let's turn in all our guns, his doctor friend said they're bad!

Danielle Brunin 4 years, 4 months ago

Are buglars real? They sound like a Dr. Seuss character to me.

booyalab 4 years, 4 months ago

That could very well be true because over here burglars try not to rob you when you're home. In the UK, where guns were banned, burglars don't stake out your place at all and consequently robberies are much more common. Furthermore, in the years after the ban, handgun crime still rose by 40%.

RogueThrill 4 years, 4 months ago

If I run into anyone carrying a gun on campus I am going to tackle and subdue that idiot and yell for someone to call the cops. I am not going to bother asking to see a permit. They had better conceal it well.

Guns on campus is easily one of the dumbest ideas gun fans have ever had.

oldvet 4 years, 4 months ago

If it becomes legal to carry a concealed weapon on campus, you are at risk of being shot by attacking a person on the street. If a person believes that their life or the life of another person is in danger, that legal concealed carry weapon can be drawn and used.

Some families of the dead at Va. Tech might wish that there had been legal concealed carry allowed at that campus one day not too long ago, because the gun ban on campus did nothing to stop a deranged criminal.

RogueThrill 4 years, 4 months ago

And a person carrying a concealed weapon wouldn't have stopped them either. Tacit deterrents are poor deterrents.

If you want to be a big big man and carry a gun to deter crime, you should do it in the open. That way you prevent crazy people from doing anything in the first place and you can be branded for the social pariah you are.

Of course, most gun owners dream of crazy LMOE scenarios and zombie apocalypses. Perhaps the point isn't deterrence, but the tangible representation of a retaliation fantasy.

Crazy_Larry 4 years, 4 months ago

Most people carry guns to protect themselves, not stop crime.

I'd like to read you explaination how someone carrying concealed couldn't/wouldn't have at least attempted to stop the VA Tech killer.

It may not be directly linked (i'd like to think it is), but violent crime rates in Kansas have been in steady decline ever since the state passed its concealed carry law.

DillonBarnes 4 years, 4 months ago

Your "I'll tackle that guy" comments are the same "big man" tough guy ego you think concealed carriers have.

pizzapete 4 years, 4 months ago

I'm sorry to see Penny Annies go, too. It seems that businesses selling booze, KU t-shirts, or expensive hamburgers are the only ones able to afford the over inflated rents downtown. And more law offices and architecture firms moving in aren't going to help the poor retail situation.

Bob Forer 4 years, 4 months ago

Sad to see Penny Annies go. A true small family-run business. The rent she is paying is probably outrageous. Right near the corner of the heart of downtown--Ninth and Massachusetts--probably rents for around $3,500 per month. You gotta sell a lot of ice cream to make a profit at those rents.

sherbert 4 years, 4 months ago

Very sad to see them go. We always like to stop in when we're downtown. Seems to me though that foot traffic is better than ever downtown. Are they not open in the evenings? Town is always bustling then. Gotta take advantage of all the hours. Actually, seems like the popcorn business they do at Christmas would be enough to keep them open. It's SO good, and SO expensive. They sure do sell a lot though!

MyName 4 years, 4 months ago

Don't forget the popcorn. Get some from Penny Annie's while it's still open!

average 4 years, 4 months ago

I really don't much care either way on the concealed gun question. Plenty of them in circulation in those buildings anyway.

However, Forrest Knox is a chicken on the matter, though, in exempting his own public workspace. If he'd simultaneously take down the expensive taxpayer-paid magnetometers and full-time security detail at his office (we've got concealed carry after all, and all the 60-something legislators are such crack shots, why do we need all the uniforms?), then he'd have more of a leg to stand on. Why is his lilly arse more valuable than that of any faculty, staff, or student at KU or K-State?

sissezz 4 years, 4 months ago

wow... i have always loved Penny Annies...BUT, i agree with the previous posts.... the hours were terrible.

ilovelucy 4 years, 4 months ago

Merrill always blames the Chamber for everything wrong in this town. The Chamber does not have a monopoly to set rental prices downtown.
Why don't you join the Chamber, Merrill, if you want to make a difference? Your constant cut and paste is annoying beyond belief.

Kawatchi 4 years, 4 months ago

I am guessing the increase in drifters, panhandlers and hobos in downtown Lawrence hasn't helped business in the last few years.

Pitt_Mackeson 4 years, 4 months ago

Jeez never thought I'd see the day when Penny Annie's closed. You just can't get any more downtown Lawrence than that place.

RoeDapple 4 years, 4 months ago

Sadly, your second sentence is the explanation for the first . . .

Sara Garlick 4 years, 4 months ago

OMG NO! I love Penny Annie's. I hate the fact that downtown is turning into nothing but bars & restaurants. Lawrence is slowly dying. All of the small unique shops is what brought ppl to here. This is not JoCo w/ corporate restaurants and strip malls. This isnt Austin Texas where 6th st is nothing but bars. This is lawrence! How can the City Commission allow this? What kickbacks are they receiving??

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