News and notes from around town:
• Local restaurant owner Hilary Brown is ramping up her efforts to put Lawrence on the national map when it comes to veggie burgers. Brown — the owner of Downtown Lawrence’s Local Burger — has started a new company and is renting space to produce the restaurant’s line of veggie burgers and other meatless products. Brown has secured financing from a group of local investors to start Drink Eat Well, and is renting production space in the shopping center at 19th and Haskell.
The new company moved into the space formerly occupied by Gran-Daddy’s BBQ in the first week of February. The company has four full-time employees that make the burgers that are sold at Checkers, area Hy-Vees and multiple restaurants in the Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City areas. Currently the company markets the patties under The World’s Best Veggie Burger brandname, but Brown told me the company is working on rebranding the product.
The company hopes to have new branding and a few new products available by mid-April when it plans to attend one of the larger food and beverage trade shows in the country. The goal there will be to expand the product’s reach well beyond the Midwest.
“Our goal is definitely to get the product national,” Brown said. “We’ve raised all the investment dollars locally, and have a great group of investors who are really committed to what we’re doing.”
In addition to the veggie burger, the company already is offering an adzuki bean burger. Brown also is developing a product that she’ll call either veggie bites or veggie nuggets, plus various sauces, dressings and condiments also are on the drawing board.
Brown started Local Burger, 714 Vt., in 2005. She said her new business venture hasn’t made her any less committed to the restaurant.
“I’ve got big plans for that too,” she said.
• A few questions are starting to circulate about what’s next for the proposed Dillons project on south Mass. Street. As we’ve reported, the project won a key vote from the Board of Zoning Appeals in February. But the project must still have its site plan approved by the city.
Site plan approvals generally are an administrative task that don’t draw much attention, but neighbors of the site are still very much interested in the process. I checked with Planning Director Scott McCullough about where the project stands. He said his office hasn’t yet approved the site plan. He said his office is still waiting for Dillons to submit revised plans for the site.
As part of the board of zoning appeals process, Dillons agreed to make several changes to the site’s access and other issues. McCullough said those changes haven’t yet been formally submitted. But McCullough said folks shouldn’t read anything into that. Instead, he believes Dillons officials simply are spending their time working on a traffic study of the area, which must be completed before a site plan can be approved.
McCullough said his office will inform the public when a site plan is approved. That will give everybody who has standing a chance to appeal the department’s decision, if they’re not satisfied with the project. Generally, an appeal must be filed within 10 days of a project being approved by staff. An appeal would be heard by the City Commission.
City commissioners, though, will hear at least two parts of the project regardless. McCullough said a permit for Dillons to use the public sidewalk for an outdoor dining area will have to be heard by the commission. Plans for a drive-through pharmacy lane off New Hampshire Street also will be heard by the commission. No date has yet been set for those items to be heard.
• Way south of here, when people refer to the “Ole Ball Coach,” they’re likely referring to college football big wig Steve Spurrier. But just a little bit south of here in Baldwin City, the Ole Ball Coach is Merle Venable, who led Baldwin High to a state championship in football in 1981 and got them darn close several other times.
A couple of events are taking place next week to honor Venable. At noon on March 10, the Baldwin Education Foundation will honor Venable and formally unveil the new name for the sports complex that is adjacent to Baldwin High — The Merle Venable BHS Sports Complex. As part of the honor, the foundation is setting up a scholarship program in Venable’s name. The scholarship plans to award $500 a year to a senior BHS athlete who has maintained at least a 3.0 GPA.
People interested in attending the event or donating to the scholarship fund can find out more information here. From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 11, several former players will hold a reception for Venable at The Lodge in Baldwin City. Expect a lot of stories from Venable.
I got to know him briefly when I was an editor in Baldwin, and he certainly has a way with words. The last time I interviewed him, he gave me a great quote about how a guy “has more guts than a burglar” He actually was describing former player and BHS grad Mike Carriker, who has become a renowned test pilot. Carriker will be the keynote speaker at the March 10 event, so if you like your stories high-flying, that’s probably the place to be.