Archive for Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Town Talk: Former Gaslight spot in N. Lawrence to get new life, and bikes for rent; Wall St. Journal speculates Knology looking for buyer; former Rod’s Hallmark going out of business

February 29, 2012


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News and notes from around town:

• The trio of burgers, billiards and beer always has been high on my list of favorite tavern-like items beginning with ‘B.’ But how about brie, bikes and beer? A new North Lawrence business is set to give it a try.

Craig Nowatzke — who for years ran a street cart hot dog stand at Ninth and Mass. streets — is set to open Gaslight Gardens at 317 N. Second St. in the little stone building just south of Johnny’s Tavern.

The business is going for a European beer garden theme, with a twist. The establishment also will rent bicycles by the hour for folks who want to ride along the adjacent Kansas River levee trail, or perhaps even take the bikes into Downtown Lawrence. As for the brie, well, the tavern won’t have a grill, so Nowatzke plans to serve some meats and cheeses and baguette sandwiches.

Nowatzke is a North Lawrence resident and a big fan of the levee trail system. He also said he’s a big fan of beer and patios.

“I have taken a couple of trips to Europe, and it is all about small places and outdoor patios,” Nowatzke said. “I realized that’s really my style too.”

The Gaslight space — the name derives from the Gaslight Tavern, a counterculture icon that existed on Mount Oread in the ’60s and ’70s — is notoriously small. The legal occupancy of the space is 39, but you all would have to be really good friends to get that many in the room. Nowatzke said 25 is a more reasonable number, but he said the revamped patio area will easily hold 40 people.

The new “biker” bar, though, will mean an end to Nowatzke’s days of running the corner hot dog stand. Nowatzke over the years became a bit of a downtown fixture. Nowatzke, who uses a wheelchair, would draw quite a bit of attention as he would set up his Sun Dog hot dog stand, and I can attest he had quite a following. I spent one very hot day with him in June 2009. It still makes my Top 5 list of articles I’ve most enjoyed. Nowatzke said he is looking to sell the stand, and hopes somebody will keep the corner business going.

As for Gaslight Gardens, he said he plans to have a grand opening on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Just so you know, I’ll do green beer, but I won’t do green cheese. Well, if I had enough green beer, I might.

• It looks like it may be time to keep an eye on Lawrence’s largest cable television provider. The Wall Street Journal — citing sources familiar with the situation — reported Tuesday that Knology had hired a financial adviser and is looking to be acquired.

For those of you who don’t remember, Knology is the company that purchased Sunflower Broadband from the Lawrence-based The World Company — the owner of this Web site and the Journal-World — in October 2010.

The Journal report didn’t include much speculation on potential buyers of Knology, and Knology officials did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment. But the article did raise the possibility that a buyer won’t be a cable company at all. The report noted private equity firms are enamored with cable companies because of their monthly cash flows.

Knology — based just outside of Atlanta — has about 800,000 subscribers in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Florida and Kansas. Interestingly, the company has more customers who subscribe to its phone service, about 277,000, than it has for its video or Internet services.

The share price for Knology jumped about 10 percent on Tuesday after word of a possible deal surfaced. The Journal speculated the company could sell for about $1.5 billion.

Or, of course, it may not sell at all. But it is something to keep an eye on.

• There is news of another business shakeup, this one much more certain. Rod’s Card & Gift — for years it was Rod’s Hallmark — is closing. The business at 2329 Iowa St. began a going-out-of-business sale today. My understanding is all merchandise is 25 percent off.

Rod’s parted ways with Hallmark in June, ending a run spanning many decades with the Kansas City greeting card giant. A message on the store’s answering machine said the store was closing because its owners had decided to retire after 48 years in business. The manager of the store told me via e-mail that a closing date for the store hasn’t yet been set. I’ll also keep my ears open for news of any tenants that may be filling that space, which is in the shopping center just south of 23rd and Iowa streets.

In today’s high-tech world, the greeting card business is an odd one. But who would have thought even 10 years ago that Lawrence — which is home to one of Hallmark’s larger card manufacturing plants in the country — wouldn’t have a Hallmark-branded store?


roosmom 6 years, 2 months ago

I love the new Gaslight concept. I wish Chad the best and hope to be a regular.

Brian Hall 6 years, 2 months ago

And thus begins Sunflower Broadband's long journey into being bought and sold every two to five years before eventually succumbing to a broadband giant like Cox, Time Warner or Comcast.

Bursting 6 years, 2 months ago

The time can't come soon enough. Cox, Time Warner, and Comcast are all cheaper than knology! I tell people from KC my combined cable/internet bill from Knology and their jaw drops.

JackMcKee 6 years, 2 months ago

your bill won't go down until there is real competition in Lawrence.

parrothead8 6 years, 2 months ago

I've had both Time-Warner and Comcast internet in other cities, and I hope they never come here. Worst customer service ever. It may be cheaper, but you'll get what you pay for.

Ricky_Vaughn 6 years, 2 months ago

I can attest. TWC customer service is horrible and maddening.

KrampusLawrence 6 years, 2 months ago

Just like our bills went down when they went from a local company to a largercompany. . .

Paul Geisler 6 years, 2 months ago

I'm SO excited about Gaslight Gardens! I've known Craig since my years at KU and my wife grew up with him in KC! He truly is one of the nicest guys around and his positive attitude is an inspiration to many! I'm really looking forward to enjoying a cold brew at Gaslight Gardens after a bike ride along the levee trail! And with a grand opening scheduled for St. Patty's day that is going to be one hell of a way to get started! Yeeeehaw!

somedude20 6 years, 2 months ago

Congrats Craig. I wonder if Craig has thought about using his cart there to sell a more expanded menu. I have seen many a people stuff their faces with Craig's wieners and meatballs

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

Looking forward to the reopening of the gaslight, and no one better to do it than Craig.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

"The report noted private equity firms are enamored with cable companies because of their monthly cash flows."

If you think customer service is bad now---

jesse499 6 years, 2 months ago

Customer service: You've got to give your life histroy to talk to some one on the phone I call that customer NON-SERVICE.

Jean Robart 6 years, 2 months ago

correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Sunflower Broadband a new venture for Knology? I seem to remember that they had no experience in cable before the acquisition.

gatekeeper 6 years, 2 months ago

Nope, they owned other small cable companies also.

4chewnut 6 years, 2 months ago

Anyone have experience with Direct TV? Good ? Bad ?

somebodynew 6 years, 2 months ago

To avoid going on a soapbox here, my only suggestion for Direct TV is to read the contract very closely and particularly about the fees they can charge when you choose to leave them. And trust me, nothing is ever their fault.

fanofKU 6 years, 2 months ago

Agreed!! And once you have parted ways they fill your mailbox with deals to get you back. We stopped them over a year ago and we continue to get this mail.

fanofKU 6 years, 2 months ago

Direct TV was horrible!! We are very pleased with ATT U-Verse.

Richard Andrade 6 years, 2 months ago

DirecTV has been pretty good to us over 5 years. If we ever run into an issue, say they want to charge us for coming out to fix the dish we rent from them, we just threaten to cancel and they scurry back and throw in a bunch of free months of movie channels.

blindrabbit 6 years, 2 months ago

We've had DirecTV for 6 years (out in the country, in area not serviced by cable), we had HughesNet before. I consider the service very good, have had some outages, but customer service responds very quickly. They have several levels of service, but we do not use for movies. The dish size has decreased and so it is not objectionable.

ladybug1 6 years, 2 months ago

What I dislike about Knology is trying to even talk to a customer service rep. You have to go through all of the computer prompts and then have a pin number and all of this other info. How did Sunflower operate without us having to give a PIN number? I haven't been too impressed with Knology.

fanofKU 6 years, 2 months ago

And I understand they want a $5 increase!

sundowner 6 years, 2 months ago

I got my bill today & there is a new charge for Broadcaster Retransmission Fee of $3.58 that wasn't there last month.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 2 months ago

Sunflower was doing a PIN number before the sale. I know because they wouldn't let me pay my bill without my PIN number for "security reasons". I had to ask the rep how often criminals called up to pay someone else's cable bill.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

Give up TV per se and start renting flcks.

Kelly Anderson 6 years, 2 months ago

Chad please find out why the store Obsessions closed so suddenly. I was just shopping there and they were talking about all the new springs stuff in the back they were getting ready to put out!!! I loved that store. They are already scraping the name of the front glass. What gives???

blindrabbit 6 years, 2 months ago

someodynew and fanofKU: Regarding your comments about DirecTV: Are you in an area not served by cable like usins!

somebodynew 6 years, 2 months ago

Yep. I live in the county. I had Direc a long time ago and they were so-so. I switched to Dish and like them. I am also very familiar with all the complaints that Direc receives and how they (don't) handle them. Around here I don't think it is too big a problem, but when you get to the smaller, more rural areas there are a lot of complaints. And talk about Customer NoService - they wrote the book on it.

I also use the Knology broadband service for my internet and like it (normally).

Curtis Lange 6 years, 2 months ago

Welp. Called the Rod's closing bit right after they stopped selling Hallmark stuff. No Hallmark cards = nobody cares about the store.

ChootemLiz 6 years, 2 months ago

I wouldn't say nobody cares. I would consider myself a regular customer and Rod's had a lot more than cards and a lot of things other than Hallmark stuff. I will miss the store and the people there. It is certainly sad to see more businesses closing in Lawrence.

ChootemLiz 6 years, 2 months ago

I wouldn't say nobody cares. I would consider myself a regular customer and Rod's had a lot more than cards and a lot of things other than Hallmark stuff. I will miss the store and the people there. It is certainly sad to see more businesses closing in Lawrence.

Lee Eldridge 6 years, 2 months ago

I've been very pleased with Sunflower / Knology over the years. We work from home and rely on our phone service AND internet service. Never a problem with the phone lines. And the internet speed rivals just about any service in the country. Have had a few issues with the multi-room DVR service, but they've always been very responsive and professional about getting a tech out to help.

And your pin number is right on your bill.

Cindy Wallace 6 years, 2 months ago

Hey Chad! Sounds Great!! Although I have not yet read all of the post's; the first thought coming to my mind is 'why not use your street cart and still sell hot dogs?' What better end to a good bike ride than to have a good cold beer and dog?

Hope you consider of luck to you!

Cindy Wallace 6 years, 2 months ago

Sorry Craig....I've seen so many "Chad" entries, I got mixed and confused!!

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