News and notes from around town:
• It is still cool to look hip (or maybe it is still hip to look cool. … I get confused), but now it is also OK to try to save a little money doing so. Stores that resell “gently used” brand-name clothing have become a retail trend, and the idea is expanding in West Lawrence.
Ditto, a store that sells a variety of used brand name clothes, opened earlier this week in the Hy-Vee shopping center at Sixth Street and Monterey Way. The store is at least the second such used clothing retailer in West Lawrence — Plato’s Closet operates next to the Hy-Vee on Clinton Parkway. Ditto owner Toni Ortiz said Lawrence is the type of town where clothing resellers can do well. Part of the reason is exactly what you would think: Lots and lots of college kids go through lots and lots of clothing styles. And lots and lots of college kids need beer money, and thus are willing to sell some of their lots and lots of clothes to get beer money. (I do not remember this trend being around when I was in college. If I knew back then I could convert a shirt into beer … well, maybe it is good I didn’t know).
But there is also another reason behind the popularity of such stores — the environment. Ortiz said college kids and teens in particular have caught on to the idea that reusing an item is actually more environmentally friendly than recycling. College students and teens have been the traditional market of a lot of these places, but Ortiz said Ditto is trying to broaden the appeal. In addition to having a large selection of women’s clothing, the store also will have a men’s department, a vintage clothing area, plus-sizes, and maternity clothes. The store also will sell accessories such as purses, belts, shoes, scarves and jewelry. Most items sell for about 50 percent of what their retail prices were when they were new.
The store — which does have three sister stores in Kansas City operated by independent owners — also operates on a slightly different business model from some resellers. Some such stores operate on a consignment basis, where you don’t get paid for your used clothes until they sell. Ditto, however, doesn’t use the consignment model. Instead, it just buys the clothes outright, as long as they meet their guidelines.
The guidelines are important, Ortiz said. The store generally only buys clothes that are less than 24 months old, and the condition, of course, is important. But so too is the brand name. The store lists several of its favorite designer names to buy including: Coach, Gucci, Prada, Armani, Vera Wang, and Versace.
Wow, who knew my wife’s closet had so much beer in it?
• Some women collect clothes, some men collect cars. For those men who like cars, one of the more interesting pieces of property in Lawrence is at 1106 R.I., just east of the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center.
The property has a deteriorating old house, which unfortunately isn’t too unique in some neighborhoods of Lawrence. But what is in the overgrown, semi-fenced in backyard of the property is interesting. The property stores 15 old Packard vehicles. If you look closely as you drive by the property you can see an old garage that has a sign on it that says University Motors. Click here to see some photos.
The estate of Raymond Barland owns the Rhode Island Street property. According to a 2004 obituary for Raymond Barland, he and his brothers Delmar and Leroy started University Motors in 1947, and it served as the city’s Packard dealership for many years. It looks like the business lasted longer than the Packard did, closing in the late 1960s. (The Packard line of automobiles ceased in the mid 1950s, I believe.) I’m not sure if the dealership every operated from the 11th and Rhode Island site or not. Some listings on the Internet indicated University Motors operated in the 700 block of New Hampshire Street from the late ’40s to the early ’60s. I don’t know if it ever officially moved to 11th and Rhode Island or not, but some cars certainly did. I tried to do a story on the old dealership and the stash of Packards a couple of years ago, but as I recall, the family was not interested in chatting.
Well, it looks like the property will indeed be in the news now. The city has started the process of declaring the structures on the property unsafe and ordering their removal. That also would include the old Packards. The city at its meeting on Tuesday will set a date of May 15 to hold a public hearing on whether the structures and vehicles shall be removed.
It will be interesting to see if the cache of vehicles draws any interest from Packard collectors looking for parts or projects. Anyway, it looks like the days of the old Packards at 11th and Rhode Island are numbered.
• Speaking of numbers, "1" seems to be an important one in the Lawrence apartment industry these days. As we’ve reported before, the idea of single-bedroom apartments seems to be a bit of a trend in the Lawrence apartment industry. Builder Tim Stultz built an entire complex of one-bedroom apartments near Clinton Parkway and Crossgate Drive, and had plans to expand the complex until it ran into opposition from neighbors and City Hall.
But Stultz has filed a plan to rezone a piece of property closer to KU to house one-bedroom apartments. The paperwork has been filed for a rezoning at 0 Sigma Nu Place, which is a bit south and west of Ninth and Emery. The roughly 2.5 acre piece of property is at the southwest corner of the Sigma Nu Place cul-de-sac, and is undeveloped.
The property currently is zoned to house a fraternity or sorority house. Stultz is seeking to have it rezoned for FM 32 multi-family use. The plans I saw didn’t indicated how many apartment units are proposed, but stated the “apartments will consist of one-bedroom units and will be primarily marketed to upperclassmen and graduate students.”
Look for that development request to work its way through the Planning Commission and City Commission in the next several weeks.