News and notes from around town:
• Fans of the Sears brand soon will have reason to rejoice in Lawrence.
As we reported back in April, Sears officials were considering two Lawrence locations to open a Sears Hometown store — the former Rod’s Hallmark Shop near 23rd and Iowa and a vacant space near Westlake Hardware in the Malls Shopping Center at 23rd and Louisiana.
Well, company officials have confirmed they’ve signed a deal to locate in the former Rod’s Hallmark Shop at 2329 Iowa St.
Gerald Huston, the Hometown Sears executive who oversees this region, told me the company hopes the store will be open by Oct. 10.
In case you have forgotten, a Hometown Sears store is basically a smaller version of a traditional Sears store. Huston said the Hometown Sears store will carry essentially all the same lines as the larger Sears stores, except it will not carry clothing, other soft goods and some smaller appliances.
But it will have larger appliances, electronics, lawn and garden equipment, tools and . . . well, whatever else Sears sold. (Whenever I was in the store, I usually just buried myself in a pile of Craftsman tools and tried to hide from my wife and kids.)
To give you a sense of just how much smaller the store will be, the Hometown Sears store is expected to occupy about 8,400 square feet. The longtime Sears store that was located at 27th and Iowa before it closed earlier this year, was around 85,000 square feet, I believe. (This may make hiding more difficult.)
The Hometown Sears stores — nearby there are ones in Ottawa and Atchison — are privately owned but Sears officials take care inventory and advertising.
Huston tells me the owner of the Lawrence store will be Kathleen Horstick, who I believe has been a manager of the Sears store in Topeka’s West Ridge Mall. I’ve got a call into Horstick and will pass along any good information I receive.
In the meantime, I’ll just be counting the days until Oct. 10. Maybe we’ll see each other at the store. I’ll be the guy behind the rack of weedwackers. But, ssshh, don’t tell my wife and kids.
• You know what is scarier than a guy lurking behind a rack of weedwackers? How about a super-sized Halloween store. (Well, maybe the weedwacker guy is still scarier.)
But the point is, Lawrence is getting a very large Halloween store, it appears. There is a sign up that indicates Spirit Halloween store is going to occupy at least part of the former Sears space at 27th and Iowa streets.
Spirit, if memory serves me correctly, opened a temporary store in the former Maurices location in the 700 block of Massachusetts Street last year.
The store touts itself as the largest seasonal Halloween retailer in the country. It has more than 850 temporary stores across the United States. It looks like the Lawrence store is scheduled to open in September. And here’s a guess, I suspect it will be open through at least Halloween.
I can’t imagine that the company will occupy all 85,000 square feet of the Sears building. That’s enough space to house an entire zombie army. (How much would it cost to buy a zombie army, you suppose?)
An even more important question than that is: What is the long-term future for the Sears building? Maybe Spirit Halloween sells a crystal ball because that’s probably what it will take to figure out that question.
My understanding is there is still good interest in the building. I think most of the interest has come area groups that want to buy the building, split it into at least three smaller spaces and then go after some of the small big-big box stores — think Old Navy, think Dick’s Sporting Goods and others that don’t have a presence in Lawrence.
But it appears there is uncertainty about who is driving the bus on disposing of the Sears building. A company controlled by Los Angeles real estate investor Elise Sinay Spilker owns the property. But I believe the Sears Holding Corp. still controls the lease on the property, and apparently those folks haven’t figured out whether they want to sublease the space or do something else. If you remember, Sears closed quite a few stores earlier this year, so perhaps there is quite a bit to unwind on their end.
Anyway, we’ll wait and see what develops. Or, maybe somebody buys that zombie army and it all becomes a moot point.