East Lawrence business of 68 years bought by local real estate developer
photo by: Chad Lawhorn
Sometimes you have to replace so many windows it makes sense to buy an entire glass company. But enough about my weekend golf outing. I actually have news of a pending sale of a longtime Lawrence business, which has the potential to change the East Lawrence landscape as well.
A deal has been struck for the family owners of Kennedy Glass to sell the business at 730 New Jersey St. to a Lawrence real estate developer later this month. The Kennedy family has owned Kennedy Glass for the last 68 years, but soon a group led by Tony Krsnich — best known for developing the Poehler Lofts and the Warehouse Arts District — will own the company.
The office and shop for Kennedy Glass are basically across the street from the Warehouse Arts District, so that may lead some to believe that Krsnich has bought the business to redevelop the property. Krsnich told me that isn’t the current plan. Former Lawrence Mayor Marty Kennedy has served as the president of the company for years and has owned it with his brothers, Gary and John Kennedy. Plans call for Marty Kennedy to continue to serve as CEO of the company and run the day-to-day operations of the business. The approximately 20 existing employees of the company also will be retained. The company will continue to operate under the Kennedy Glass name.
“It definitely was a big decision and a heartfelt one,” Kennedy said. “We wanted to make sure the reputation of the business would continue on.”
But Krsnich acknowledged that when he first started thinking about the deal, he wasn’t thinking about owning a glass company.
“I’ve known Marty for quite awhile as one of his customers,” Krsnich said. “Maybe three years ago, kind of in passing, I told him that if he ever decided to sell the real estate to let me know. I had some ideas in mind for the property.”
As the prospect of a deal started to emerge, though, Krsnich said he took a closer look at how much money he was spending on glass for the various new construction and remodeling projects that his company has done in Kansas City and Lawrence. He estimated that his recent projects, plus the ones that are in the pipeline, have or will use about $3 million worth of glass.
“I told myself that I was thinking wrong about this deal,” Krsnich said. Operating the business would be a good chance for vertical integration for his development company, plus would help him diversify his business holdings, he said.
Krsnich brought on Kansas City entrepreneur John Stephenson — who has a background in apartment and property management — to serve as a partner in the deal.
“We’ll help with some strategic leadership and direction and play a financial role,” Stephenson said of the new ownership group. “But on day-to-day operations, Marty will continue to play that role.”
Still, the Kennedy Glass property is an enticing one as it relates to the Warehouse Arts District. The office, shop and yard take up a good part of the 700 block of New Jersey Street, and the property is adjacent to the old Quonset hut property that Black Hills Energy used to own. Speculation has arisen that the Quonset hut property could be ripe for redevelopment. However, Krsnich doesn’t own that property. Lawrence businessman Adam Williams owns it, and he tells me that he is not part of the Kennedy Glass deal. So, at the moment, there doesn’t appear to be any efforts to combine those two properties, which would allow for an even more significant redevelopment.
Krsnich obviously recognizes the potential for the real estate but said he didn’t have any immediate plans for redevelopment. He also understands possible rumors to the contrary.
“People are going to think what they want to think,” Krsnich said. “I hope that I’m calling you in six months to say that we have outgrown the current location because business is so good. But that is really nowhere on the horizon.”
photo by: Chad Lawhorn
As for the glass business, Marty Kennedy said it has been good of late. Over the last four years, the company has been busy as the apartment boom and other commercial construction picked up.
He said he’s just pleased he’ll continue to be able to work in the business that his father, Richard Kennedy, founded as the Auto Glass Co. in 1950. The name changed to Kennedy Glass in 1973. Kennedy said the decision to sell the business largely came down to there not being another generation of Kennedys who wanted to take over ownership of the business.
Glass for commercial buildings has become a big part of the company’s business, but it always has sold glass to the public — everything from picture-frame glass to automotive glass. Under the new ownership, efforts may be made to expand direct sales. Kennedy, who has been with the business since returning from the Marine Corps in 1970, said he’s excited about the business’s prospects.
“We just are looking forward to having the business keep on growing and having it take care of a wonderful community,” Kennedy said.
The sale is scheduled to be finalized on Sept. 18.