News and notes from around town:
• UPDATE: A late Tuesday tip indicates a bit of a shakeup at Vangent, the largest private employer in Lawrence. The Journal-World received a copy of an email to Vangent employees that says it will be shutting down one of its two East Hills Business Park buildings within the next several months.
A source with knowledge of the situation told me the move is not expected to create any immediate job losses. But it will cause about 80 to 90 employees to be reassigned to another contract within the Lawrence office. That's because the move will mean Vangent no longer will operate a customer service center for federal student loans out of its Lawrence office. Instead, three other offices — Coralville, Iowa, Phoenix, and Las Cruces, New Mexico — will take over Lawrence's role in the student loan program.
But Vangent's Lawrence facility services several other contracts, including a large Medicare contract that is expected to absorb several of the employees. According to the email, the company will vacate its building at 3833 Greenway Drive. It will keep its newer building along Noria Road, which is just east of the Greenway Drive building. The email did not indicate what, if any, plans the company has for the Greenway Drive building. But the email did state that Vangent has leases in Lawrence that run into 2021, which might be a good sign the company is not looking to move all its operations out of the city.
Vangent recently was purchased by a division of General Dynamics. That purchase has led the company to look for greater efficiencies in their operations, according to the email. At one point, Vangent had more than 1,000 employees in Lawrence. An employee total wasn't immediately available Tuesday, but the Lawrence facility has had some empty space since work on a U.S. Census contract ended more than a year ago.
• As we’ve previously reported, Kwik Shop has plans to build a new store at 19th and Massachusetts to replace its current facility on the northeast corner of the intersection.
Now, there are new details about the project. According to plans filed at City Hall, the Kwik Shop will expand from its current two pump configuration to a six pump configuration — or in other words, enough room for 12 vehicles since each pump can be operated from both sides.
The project will accommodate the additional pumps by razing the existing building, and constructing a new store farther to the east on vacant property that is closer to the corner of 19th and New Hampshire.
The new building will be about 40 percent larger than the existing store. In total, the project is expected to check in around $1.9 million, according to the plans filed at City Hall. It looks like access points for the property will remain unchanged.
Kwik Shop is owned by the Kroger Corporation, which also owns Dillons. Anybody who has driven down South Mass. recently can see that workers are making great progress on building the new Dillons grocery store just north of 19th and Mass. The spokeswoman for Dillons is out of the office this week, but when she returns, I’m hoping to get a timeline for when Dillons plans to open the grocery store and when work will begin on the Kwik Shop.
It also will be interesting to see if the area surrounding Dillons redevelops as the new store increases traffic in the area. In particular, there is a vacant restaurant building — the old Bambino’s — right across the street from the store. At one point, work had begun to convert that into another Italian restaurant, but I’ve been told that project hit some unexpected difficulties and is no longer moving forward.
At one point, I had heard a movie rental business (do we still call them video stores?) had an interest in the location. But take that for what it is worth because I haven’t seen any signs of that develop. If you remember, Family Video seemed to do well next to the Dillons store. It moved to the Louisiana Purchase center at 23rd and Louisiana streets after On the Rocks liquor store took over the video store location.
Who knows, maybe a bank would work well there. If food and gas prices keep going up, it will be handy to have a place to get a loan.
• Another week and another week’s worth of property sales from the Douglas County Register of Deeds. Click here to see the list.
There were a couple of noteworthy listing this week. Hummer LC — an entity headed up by Lawrence businessman Greg Polk — has sold the old Just Food building at 1200 E. 11th Street to Kevin Chaney. It looks like Chaney has set up a property management business in the location, which is just northeast of 11th and Haskell.
On South Iowa Street, the building at 3220 Iowa St. that houses Mattress Firm has changed hands, going from a Mission Hills entity to one connected to Mattress Firm. In case you haven’t driven by recently, Mattress Firm is up and operational. The bedding retailer — which took over the building that formerly housed Golf USA and Mr. Goodcents — has hours of 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
• While we’re on the South Iowa Street corridor, here’s a business that opened earlier this year that slipped under the Town Talk radar. Wireless Restore has opened at 2201 W. 25th St. in the shopping center behind Office Depot.
In my house, my young kids understand how to operate the electronic equipment better than I do. (The Muppets app on my phone really isn’t for me. Honest.) But they also know how to break electronic items a lot better than I do. (My wife would debate that.) Anyway, Wireless Restore is betting my situation is not unique. The company specializes in repairing cell phones, tablets, gaming systems, hand-held devices and other such things that my kids will have to explain to me later.
The company also sells used cell phones and other devices. Wireless Restore CEO Kevin Hood said used cell phones have become a good seller, in part, because many people get committed to a contract but are looking for an affordable way to switch phones. He estimated most of his used phones sell for about 50 percent of their new price.
The location only has been open a few months, but Hood has been in the cell phone refurbishing business for about seven years. Hood said he was at one of those storage unit auctions, kind of like what you see on TV these days, and came across a unit that had the parts inventory of five cell phone stores inside. That got him started in the repair business, and he’s been going ever since.
And my wife says nothing good ever comes out of an auction. Just wait, I’ll make money off that $100 box of goodies I bought while scratching my nose yet.
• Town Talk will be absent for a couple of days. I’ll be clearing space in my garage for my next auction purchase.