News and notes from around town:
• If you are like me and thought fusti was just something you tried to play under the table, you’ve got an education coming your way in Downtown Lawrence.
As I awkwardly learned in a recent interview, a fusti is a bowl-like device with a spigot that dispenses olive oil and such. And there will be a whole bunch of them at Lawrence’s newest foodie store — Extra Virgin, which will sell fresh olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Owner Debbie Briggs is working to convert the space at 937 Mass. — it briefly housed a clothing store called Obsession — into Lawrence’s only store specializing in fresh oil and vinegar.
“It is a very new concept for the area,” Briggs said. “This will be only the second store of its type in Kansas.”
Overland Park has a similar store, and Briggs said she always believed the idea would go over well in Downtown Lawrence. The idea is this: Olive oil is healthy for you, and not all olive oil is created equal.
“Ours is fresh,” Briggs said. “What you get in the supermarket is not.”
Briggs said her store will be served by a buyer who purchases olives in both hemispheres of the world, monitors how they’re harvested and then ships the oil unbottled to California. From there it comes to Downtown Lawrence, where Briggs will bottle the olive oil right when you order it. The futsis come into the equation because Briggs will have 40 of them set up around the store, each with a different flavor of olive oil or balsamic vinegar. Customers will be able to go from fusti to fusti to fusti (hey, when I learn a new word, I use it) and sample the oils and vinegar.
There will be 20 flavors of olive oil and 20 flavors of balsamic vinegar. That’s right, 20 varieties of olive oil. Several will have been pressed through various fruits to give them a different flavor, and some will be infused with herbs or mushrooms or garlic or other such food.
As for the balsamic vinegar, it also will come in different varieties and will be separated out by how long it has aged. Briggs said most of the vinegars will have aged anywhere from 12 to 18 years. Maybe I’ll switch from Scotch to vinegar.
Briggs hopes to have the store open by April 1.
• Retail sales continue to be on an upswing in Lawrence. The city recently received its sales tax check from the state for February, and it shows retailers posted sales that were 2.6 percent higher than a year earlier. That marks the sixth straight month that Lawrence retail sales have been higher than the same month the year earlier.
The city received the check in late February, but because of the time it takes the state to process sales tax returns, the numbers really represent sales made in January. For the month, Lawrence retailers made sales of $119.59 million, up from $116.45 million.
For the first two months of the year, retail sales are up 4.3 percent, totaling $231.45 million. In short, retail sales in Lawrence are off to their best start in quite some time. Even when adjusted for inflation, you have to go back to 2007 to find a time when retail sales got off to a significantly better start.
Here’s a look at the past few years worth of retail sales, adjusted for inflation:
— 2012: $231.4 million
— 2011: $223.4 million
— 2010: $212.5 million
— 2009: $228.7 million
— 2008: $231.8 million
— 2007: $236.1 million
• Click here to see the most recent list of land sales as recorded by the Douglas County Register of Deeds. Nothing too interesting to point out, although I did note that a couple of builders have started to buy lots again in the Diamondhead Drive area near Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.
• Speaking of property, I’m off to the Douglas County tax sale, which begins at 10 a.m. today in the jury assembly room of the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center. I leave here this morning as a lowly reporter, but perhaps I come back as a magnate of odd-shaped abandoned pieces of property. As my wife told me, they’d better be able to house a tent because that’s what I’ll be sleeping in if I raise my bidding hand.