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News and notes from around town:
• I haven’t seen a proposal to rename the stretch of Massachusetts Street between 17th and 19th streets after the Kroger company, but you could make a case for it these days. In addition to the new Dillons store under construction on south Mass., Kroger — the parent company of Dillons — has filed plans to rebuild its Kwik Shop convenience store at 19th and Mass.
The plans filed at City Hall call for Kwik Shop to expand into the vacant lot that is immediately behind its current store on the northeast corner of 19th and Mass. That plan means the Kwik Shop store will be significantly closer to New Hampshire Street than it is today.
The company is proposing to raze its existing 2,700-square-foot store and replace it with a $1.9 million, 3,900-square-foot store. New fuel pumps also will be part of the equation, although I couldn’t tell from the plans whether the number of pumps will increase significantly.
Thus far the project has filed plans for the city’s Historic Resources Commission to review the design of the building. Look for the HRC to review the project either at its February or March meeting. The project also will need to receive site plan approval from the city’s planning department. No timeline yet on when construction could begin.
• Well it hasn’t been all fun and games for Lawrence hobby enthusiasts lately. Folks who do everything from model building to remote control racing have lost one of their longtime Lawrence suppliers. The business formerly known as George’s Hobby House, 1411 W. 23rd St., has closed and it doesn’t look like it is going to reopen anytime soon. The business recently changed its name to Roger’s Hobby House, but it operated under the George’s Hobby House name since its founding in the 1960s.
Roger Miller, a longtime employee of George’s Hobby House, bought the store from the Leinmiller family about two years ago, said Bruce Leinmiller, son of founder George Leinmiller. According to Douglas County District Court documents, it appears Miller has had financial troubles at the store. The Kansas Department of Revenue in late December filed two tax warrants against Miller and the business to collect about $24,000 in unpaid sales taxes. The state, however, did not seize the store. Instead it started the legal process to force the business to pay the back taxes.
Attempts to reach Miller were not successful. But longtime customers of the store said Miller recently sent them an email confirming the “permanent closure” of the store.
The Leinmiller family still owns the real estate where the store was located. Bruce Leinmiller said his family did not have any immediate plans to reopen a hobby store at the location. He said he has been in discussion with other businesses about locating in the fairly visible space along 23rd Street. He did not elaborate on what type of businesses were interested in the location.
But Leinmiller said even with the recession and in this day of computerized entertainment, the hobby industry remains a viable one.
“Some parts of the industry have grown like never before,” Leinmiller said. “The RC (remote control) industry has grown really well. It is always a moving target of what’s popular, but that’s the way it is in any industry.”
UPDATE: Roger Miller called me back this morning after seeing the above report. He said his plans were not to suddenly close the store, but he was forced to do so after he was unable to resolve a lease issue with the Leinmillers. He said he had worked out a process with the state to pay the back taxes.
"The store had had a couple of bad months, but we were on our way of getting out of financial trouble, not into it," Miller said.
Miller also said he's optimistic that Lawrence will have a new hobby store in the near future. Miller said he has been approached by several folks who are interested in starting a new hobby store in Lawrence and having Miller serve as the manager of the business.
"I've had people call me with offers," Miller said.
• If your hobby is trying to grow a business in Eudora, Baldwin City or Lecompton, there is a new resource for you. As we have previously reported, Douglas County’s three smaller communities successfully banded together to be included in NetWork Kansas’ Entrepreneurship Communities Program. The program awards state tax credits to rural communities who can then sell the credits to investors. The proceeds from the sale are then used to make low-interest loans to either existing businesses looking to expand or new business looking to locate in one of the communities.
Well, the program recently announced that the Douglas County communities successfully have sold $63,701 worth of the tax credits, meaning the Douglas County program is ready to start moving into the loan-making stage of the program. Businesses that are interested in the program should contact Collin Bielser, the economic development coordinator for the city of Eudora, at 542-4111. Bielser is serving as the point of contact for all three Douglas County communities that are participating in the loan program.
Statewide, the 5-year-old E-Community program has made $1.6 million in loans to businesses, which has helped those companies leverage another $9.3 million in funding. In total, the state estimates the program has helped create or retain about 400 jobs in rural communities over the last five years.