Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Town Talk: UPDATE Vangent to shutter one building, pull contract from Lawrence; new details on Kwik Shop expansion at 19th and Mass.; weekly land transfers; cell phone repair business opens

April 10, 2012, 9:16 a.m. Updated April 10, 2012, 11:10 p.m.


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.


Hooligan_016 6 years, 1 month ago

"It looks like access points for the property will remain unchanged."

Ugh :/

I still think the S drive should be moved back a bit to the east ...but then it might interfere with New Hampshire st. The only solution I could envision is having a split entrance/exit drive. That is, you can only enter the S drive while driving west (so turning right into it). And when you leave, you can only turn right to continue travelling to the west.

I hope that made sense.

Keith 6 years, 1 month ago

"• Another week and another week’s worth of property sales from the Douglas County Register of Deeds. Click here to see the list. "

Missing link.

Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 1 month ago

Sorry about that. The link is now there. Thanks, Chad

Frank A Janzen 6 years, 1 month ago

And before Bambino's, the legendary Cornucopia!!

BTW, the former Mass Street Dillon's staff out on 23rd Street tell me they expect the new Dillon's on Mass to open in July. And to see the progress being made, that seems correct.

Also, BTW, one guy told me that the work the plumbers were doing putting in the plumbing (and sewer lines) at the new store was NOT approved by the city inspectors, and had to be redone. (He didn't know why.)

LadyJ 6 years, 1 month ago

I wish people driving east on 19th would quit trying to enter the gas station by turning left off of 19th. They end up stopping traffic and backing it up across Mass St waiting for a break in traffic during rush hours. For heavens sake, turn on Mass St and use that entrance, duh.

Terry Sexton 6 years, 1 month ago

I'm with you on that one, LadyJ. And is it too much to ask to quit turning left from 23rd onto Ohio? Turn at Louisiana & then right at 22nd. Sheesh.

Hooligan_016 6 years, 1 month ago

Hence my first comment on how to reconfigure the south drive to be rid of that possibility :D

MarcoPogo 6 years, 1 month ago

I don't think that a person making a legal turn into the correct lane on Mass has enough roadway to meet the legal requirement for time-of-signaling to make the legal turn into the parking lot.

Why do you hate lawful driving?

windjammer 6 years, 1 month ago

Most drivers don't have a clue what law you are talking about. But you indeed are correct.

countrygirl 6 years, 1 month ago

LJW-you might also be interested to know that the contract being moved out of Lawrence has an on-going case with the board of labor over back pay owed due to improper wage determinations and job classifications. Not Kansas Board of Labor--federal.

collective82 6 years, 1 month ago

There's a lot of issues with the new kwik shop at 19th and mass. Go to cottons and look at the plans! The traffic flow makes no sense to the common person and while building they should be putting renewable energy resources into the construction as well ie solar panels on the new island and building.

collective82 6 years, 1 month ago

I'm just saying for new constructions why not? Has to start somewhere and it would lower their bills in the long run, it just costs more up front is all.

Joe Berns 6 years, 1 month ago

When is Olive Garden coming to town again??

Richard Heckler 6 years, 1 month ago

The Dillons at 6th and Lawrence Ave is on track for a face lift in the near future which may mean more of what is taking place at 19th and Mass.

============ "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."

These buyouts will always bring about job losses as the buyouts are expensive = creative BIG BANK loans hmmmmmmmm. This type of activity during the Reagan/Bush years = many USA jobs went abroad. I say expect the same from this venture sooner or later.

"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."

Don't hold your breath for too long. Contracts are meaningless to Wall Street monsters.

drake 6 years, 1 month ago

I really don't know why I'm replying to a spambot but you are wrong. It isn't Bush's fault.

They simply moved those positions to another town that doesn't have a living wage ordinance. The living wage ordinance really helped those workers didn't it?

Catalano 6 years, 1 month ago

And I don't know why I'm replying to someone who doesn't know what they're talking about, but you are wrong.

The living wage ordinance does not apply to call centers. Ergo, Vangent was not subject to that.

drake 6 years, 1 month ago

Federal prevailing wage mandates absolutely use local living wage ordinances. This was a Federal student loan call center, thus prevailing wage guidelines.

Catalano 6 years, 1 month ago

Can you cite me a reference? Because I was most certainly NOT paid the "living wage" for Lawrence when I worked there.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 1 month ago

Somebody is forgetting that attribution thing. Plagiarism is killing the planet hmmmmmmm. (from a source)

pizzapete 6 years, 1 month ago

I hope General Dynamics shakes things up at Vangent. Vangent is the most poorly run business I have ever worked for. After four weeks of training I was assigned a dirty desk with no phone or computer. We had a group of around 100 employees that "worked" for three days while the company struggled to get our computers and phones up and running. After the first week we were told we would have many days where we would do no work. Unable to have paper, pens, books, or any electronic device at our desk we were assigned to sit at our desks for five or six hours a day and do nothing. We weren't even allowed to talk with our fellow co-workers. And we had to ask our supervisors for permission to use the bathroom. Working there was like going back to kindergarden. It's hard to imagine why this is the company the government has entrusted to run the customer service side of the Student Loan, Medicare, Social Security, etc. contracts.

Catalano 6 years, 1 month ago

Totally agree. You'd think with all the turnover they have that they would have their act together by now. And their "point system". Hell, if I was going to be 4 minutes late, I might as well take at least half the day off, if not the whole day. Make me WANT to be there on time. Oh, wait, you can't.

The bathroom thing...please. Must I tell my supervisor I take a drug that has a diuretic in it? I don't think so. I once asked one of my co-workers (they would assign us buddies after we completed class until our security clearance came through) what happens if I need to throw up? "You have to finish the call, then you can go to the bathroom." Really? Seriously? I can't like wave a red flag for a supervisor?

When I was there, people crocheted or knitted when there was down time. Of course, crochet hooks or knitting needles are probably verboten now, with "security" and all.

I do not know how people do it working there. You're way too generous with your kindergarten analogy.

Sharon Roullins 6 years, 1 month ago

I'm curious how LJWorld managed to get their hands on an email from a Vangent employee given the Secure Floor Policy? I wouldn't want to be the person that leaked that. Jobs are hard to come by as it is. Oh well, time will only tell.

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