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New Lawrence general store makes life simple

November 7, 2013

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Cindy's Simple Life carries fun, novelty items like hand decorations and mustaches.

Cindy's Simple Life carries fun, novelty items like hand decorations and mustaches.

Cindy Luxem and her husband, Tom, have opened Cindy's Simple Life, a funky general store, at 16 E. 8th St. in Lawrence. Cindy's Simple Life features everyday items from lava lamps to CubeBots.

Cindy Luxem and her husband, Tom, have opened Cindy's Simple Life, a funky general store, at 16 E. 8th St. in Lawrence. Cindy's Simple Life features everyday items from lava lamps to CubeBots.

Lava lamps, one of the everyday items available at Cindy's Simple Life.

Lava lamps, one of the everyday items available at Cindy's Simple Life.

Get a whole book and save paper with this 'book on one page,' sold at Cindy's Simple Life.

Get a whole book and save paper with this 'book on one page,' sold at Cindy's Simple Life.

For those of us who hate having to run errands all over town, new one-stop shop Cindy’s Simple Life is our new lifeline right off Mass Street.

Dubbed an “urban general store,” this isn’t the run-of-the-mill, staple-selling convenience store stocked with routine household supplies and bath products -- although incarnations of these items do fill the store. Owner Tom Luxem and his wife, Cindy, describe the merchandise at Cindy’s as wacky, fun and functional.

If you find yourself spending a little too much time in the accessory or gift section of large stores, this entire shop will satisfy you. From black tissues to race car-driver pizza cutters, manatee tea infusers to candles in mason jars, this one-room wonderland has all the things you might need for small-space-living, but with some kind of twist.

“We’ll have things that you need that will be a little different,” Luxem says.

He can’t take the credit for the urban general store idea; he was inspired by a shop in Brooklyn, N.Y., where his son used to work. Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store is a modern general store that combines the charm of a country general store with the sophistication of modern city living. Stores like Annie’s (and Cindy’s) are the perfect source to find offbeat gifts, greeting cards, children’s toys, pet accessories and household items.

Much of the initial buying and vendor guidance came from Annie’s general store owner, Ann Lopatin Cantrell.

“She helped with things that normally I wouldn’t have known to buy,” Luxem says.

Cubebots, for example: wooden blocks that children can assemble to build a robot. Who knew that would be such a big hit?

They’ve also seen a great response from the greeting-card section of the store. In keeping with everything else, they have a different energy and design than standard greeting cards. Messages that front the cards include “You are made of awesome” and “You’re so cute I could bottle you up in a mason jar.” If that doesn’t scream lfk, nothing does.

Before opening this business, Luxem managed Hastings in Lawrence, Manhattan and Topeka, and after deciding against relocating to a job offer in Texas, he thought it was time for a career change. He knew that if he was ever going to go into retail, he’d have to own space downtown.

“It’s the best place to be,” he says.

After wandering around for a space, he came across the Eighth Street location, just half an hour after the previous owner put out a sign. He snatched up the location without actually having a plan in mind for the shop itself.

“I knew it was a sign,” Tom says of his impulsivity.

Lawrence isn’t exactly the big apple, says son Chris Luxem, but there is definitely an urban push in downtown Lawrence with apartments located above stores and Kansas University nearby. Merchandise found at Cindy’s has a place in apartment or dorm settings, he explains.

“It’s old ideas in new design,” Chris says. “The general store for the new age world.”

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