Entries from blogs tagged with “Town Talk”
There’s a new home decor store in Lawrence, and its owner already is teaching me something. I’ve learned the industrial look is in style, which is great news. My office has been stylish for years because nothing says industrial like piles of rubble.
Yes, there is probably a reason I’m not in the home decor business. Donna Madel, on the other hand, is in the business because friends would see her house and then talk her into giving them decor advice.
“It started out as something I just did for free, and then it kind of got out of control,” Madel said.
The result is Nestings Home Decor & Gifts Co., at 846 Illinois St. If you are having a hard time picturing the location, it is where the White Chocolate skateboarding shop used to be, or alternatively, a couple of doors down from Rick’s Place bar. (Should I stop getting my home decor advice from that establishment?)
Madel said her shop sells everything from pictures, lamps, trays, crocks, pillows and larger items such as benches, tables and many refurbished pieces of furniture that are given that vintage look.
“The industrial look is big right now, and the farmhouse look is big too,” Madel said.
In case you are confused about what an industrial look may entail, Madel offered up an example. The store keeps its eyes open for unique tools or devices that could be used as decoration. For example, old wooden pulleys are being used as wall art or are used to hang plants or other such items. (Now that makes sense. Have a pulley on the wall and then you don’t have to rent one at Thanksgiving to move the bowl of mashed potatoes.)
The farmhouse look should be more familiar as it is splashed on all sorts of magazines and television shows. Lots of barn items, shiplap siding, weathered wood and other such decor. Some of the items in Madel’s shop, though, come with the extra style points of being handmade by local artisans. For example, the store has handcrafted ladders made by an area craftsman.
By early next year, the store expects one of its callings cards to be as a supply store for people who like to do some of their own work when it comes to refurbishing furniture. The store has reached a deal to become a dealer for the original Chalk Paint brand of paint. If you are not familiar with chalked paint, it is a type of paint that allows you to paint over furniture with very minimal prep work — no sanding, no primer, and that sort of stuff.
If getting out your paintbrushes isn’t high on your to-do list, Madel does that type of work and offers such pieces for sale in the shop. She said she is always keeping an eye open for either genuine vintage furniture or furniture that can be made to look vintage.
“I just love it,” Madel said of the business. “I love the process of putting something together and making it look beautiful.”
I understand why I’m discouraged from using hammers and saws (although I still contend “load-bearing wall” sounds like jargon you can safely ignore). What has been less clear is why local contractors aren’t using their tools to build more single-family homes in Lawrence.
A new report from the Lawrence Board of Realtors and Wichita State’s Center for Real Estate paints an interesting picture. Lawrence’s real estate market has been one of the best in the state in 2017, which normally would give contractors optimism about building more homes. But the report found that Lawrence’s homebuilding market has been sluggish, especially compared to neighboring Kansas City.
A WSU professor offered a theory, though, at a Thursday morning real estate event in Lawrence: Home prices still aren’t high enough.
Selling prices for existing homes have been pretty stagnant for much of this decade. However, prices for construction materials — plywood, shingles, etc. — have gone up some, which means the prices of newly constructed homes have continued to rise. The result has been that newly constructed homes have cost a lot more to buy than existing homes. That’s always been the case, but the last few years, the gap has been historically large.
“Buyers have been asking themselves why they would pay so much more for a new home when they could get so much value for their money with an existing home?” Stan Longhofer, director of the WSU Center for Real Estate, told the crowd at the Lawrence Board of Realtors housing forecast event on Thursday.
The result has been there is fierce competition for existing homes in Lawrence, but the pace of construction for single-family homes remains stagnant. And don’t expect that to change next year. In fact, it actually may get worse.
Here’s a look at some of the key findings from the WSU report.
• The number of Lawrence home sales is expected to rise by 3.9 percent this year. Of all the metro markets in Kansas, Lawrence is the only one projected to see an increase in home sales in 2017. All the rest have seen a tight inventory of homes scare off buyers. For whatever reason, people who want to live in Lawrence are staying persistent and overcoming the low number of homes available.
• In 2018, Lawrence homes sales are projected to increase by another 4 percent. That is the second best growth forecast in the state, trailing only Manhattan.
• Despite the strong demand from buyers, new home construction has been basically flat in Lawrence this year. WSU projects new home starts in Lawrence will rise by a meager 0.4 percent in 2017.
• The report expects 2018 to be slightly worse for new home construction. It projects new home starts will fall by about 5 percent, which amounts to about 15 fewer homes being built next year.
• After years of being stagnant, home prices are rising in a big way. WSU estimates home prices — as measured by the Federal Housing Finance Agency — rose by 7.3 percent in 2016. That was the largest increase since the mid-1990s. WSU is projecting home prices will increase another 5.7 percent in 2017 and 4.4 percent in 2018.
So, in 2018, look for competition to be intense for homes in Lawrence, and expect to pay more. However, don’t expect a lot more new homes to be constructed. Longhofer said it will take a few years for the value proposition between existing homes and new homes to equalize. In fact, it may get more out of balance in 2018 because prices for building materials are expected to soar as many of those products get shipped to areas ravaged by hurricanes.
The takeaway is, if you are looking to buy a home in 2018, be prepared to act fast. Thus far this year, 33 percent of all homes sold in Lawrence have sold in 10 days or less. Historically, the average has been about 15 percent of all homes sell in 10 days or less.
“I can’t get my brain around how fast homes are selling right now,” Longhofer said, although he noted homes with price tags of $400,000 or more still sell much more slowly.
Here’s a look at how Lawrence’s real estate market stacks up to the other metro areas measured by WSU:
• Kansas City: Homes sales projected to be down 2.9 percent for 2017. Predicted to rise 3.6 percent in 2018. Home prices projected to rise 7.2 percent for 2017. Predicted to rise 6.6 percent in 2018.
• Manhattan: Homes sales projected to decline by 1.2 percent in 2017. Predicted to rise 9.8 percent in 2018, as several new housing developments are completed. Home prices projected to rise 7.2 percent this year, and 6.6 percent in 2018.
• Topeka: Homes sales projected to decline by 1.2 percent in 2017 and rise 0.6 percent in 2018. Housing prices are projected to increase 3.6 percent in 2017 and 2.7 percent in 2018.
• Wichita: Home sales projected to decline by 0.7 percent in 2017 and rise by 1.5 percent in 2018. Housing prices are projected to rise by 4.1 percent this year and 3.7 percent in 2018.
As North Lawrence residents have learned, there is a good way and a bad way for that walnut tree in the front yard to end up in your dining room.
Last weekend’s storm highlighted the bad way. The storm brought down a lot of trees, and some of them even crashed through roofs, landed on cars or damaged other property.
But what’s the good way for a walnut tree to end up in your dining room? Well, it would look great as a dining room table. A new East Lawrence business can make that happen. Form & Function has opened at 620 E. Eighth St., across from the Poehler Lofts building, in the old building that somewhat resembles a Quonset hut. Landon Harness and Greg Anderson are two area woodworkers who are using the building to mill lumber from area trees, and then they either sell that lumber to other woodworkers or use it themselves to make custom furniture creations.
The timing on all of this is coincidental. Harness and Anderson didn’t open the business knowing that a big storm was coming, but the storm indeed may end up keeping the company busy. While National Weather Service folks aren’t willing to call Saturday’s storm a microburst, North Lawrence residents definitely will tell you it is a macro pain in the rear, with downed trees scattered throughout the neighborhood.
“We did hand out a bunch of business cards in North Lawrence the other day,” Harness said.
To be clear, the company isn’t a tree removal firm. Its standard way of operating is to work with tree removal companies. The tree company cuts the tree down, but instead of cutting up the trunk, it leaves it for Form & Function to pick up. Harness and Anderson take it back to the shop, where they have a Timber King sawmill that can handle logs as large as 30 inches. If it gets bigger than that, Anderson has a 60-inch chainsaw. (With that chainsaw and an XXXXL white hockey mask, I guarantee you’ll have the best costume at any Halloween party.)
The idea behind the business is simple.
“I just enjoy saving stuff,” Harness said. “That is what it all stemmed from for me. I enjoy seeing things not go to waste.”
Most trees taken down by tree service companies either go to the wood chipper pile or the burn pile. Harness thinks there are plenty of homeowners who would rather see the old tree made into something beautiful, and he thinks there are buyers who will be interested in the idea of buying furniture made from local wood. Look how big the locavore concept has become with food. Maybe this is the beginning of a similar concept: localoungers (people who only nap in chairs made of local wood.)
Well, maybe we’re not quite to that point. Harness said consumers do have to be reminded that you actually can turn a Kansas log into a beautiful piece of furniture.
“It is a lot of education because we live in a state where the lumber industry really doesn’t exist,” Harness said. “But people are wanting to move back to something that has beauty and soul.”
Harness estimated the business has sawed about 15 varieties of timber. Local walnut, maple and oak are all very traditional types of furniture woods, but Harness said several other Kansas species can make for really interesting pieces. Mulberry, persimmon, and hackberry are all pretty common and interesting. Then there are some like a sweet gum, which produces a wood that looks a bit like a maple, but has distinctive gray streaks running through it that make it look vintage.
“And a Siberian elm was by far the prettiest that we’ve cut,” Harness said. “Once we cut into a log, sometimes we are amazed at what we find. Milling day is definitely the most fun.”
As for the type of furniture the business makes, Harnett said his is a bit more modern, “live edge,” furniture that leaves the wood as natural as possible. He does a lot of dining room tables, kitchen islands, fireplace mantles, shelving and other such projects. Anderson, Harness said, produces furniture that is more refined and features classical styling.
A lot of the business’ furniture is custom-order jobs, but the shop will have a showroom that will display some pieces that are for sale. The business is having its grand opening as part of the Oct. 27 Final Fridays activities. The business will be open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and will have live music and refreshments.
When I think of escaping in Lawrence, I normally think of things like Memorial Stadium before halftime. But that’s not what USA Today had in mind when it ranked the city as having one of the best escape room businesses in America.
Breakout Lawrence at 727 Massachusetts St. has been voted one of the best escape rooms in the country, according to an article published by USA Today’s travel network.
If you are confused about the idea of an “escape room,” don’t feel bad. You probably are just un-hip. Escape rooms are an entertainment craze where you and a few friends get locked in a room and have an hour to solve several ciphers and clues that give you the secret code to open the door. (Leavenworth has a similar, thriving business, but you don’t go with your friends, and you get a lot more time than an hour.)
USA Today’s website 10best.com recently named Breakout Lawrence the seventh best escape room in the country. A team of travel editors and escape room experts picked 20 escape room businesses across the country, and then USA Today readers voted to determine the top 10.
Matt Baysinger, owner of Breakout Lawrence, is pretty excited by the ranking. He also owns the popular Breakout Kansas City business, which last year was ranked No. 5 by USA Today. Baysinger, a former University of Kansas track and field athlete, is pleased the Lawrence location is getting national recognition. The Lawrence business has grown from having a single escape room to now having four of them.
Two of the rooms have quite a bit of local flavor. One is named "The Rules of Basketball Museum," capitalizing on the fact that KU is home to James Naismith’s original rules. From the Breakout Lawrence website: “Your Trip to the Rules of Basketball Museum takes a dramatic turn when you learn of a plot to steal the historic document.”
One of the other rooms plays off of Lawrence’s Civil War history. Although the room doesn’t require you to know about Lawrence’s Bleeding Kansas history, it does highlight for visitors that Lawrence was a major player in the war. The set up for that room is that you and your fellow soldiers are trapped in an enemy bunker, but you have an hour to try to escape before your captors return from a scouting trip. (I’m not sure if it is a Boy Scout or Girl Scout trip, or whether there is even a difference anymore.)
Baysinger does a lot of the work to come up with the scenarios, clues, ciphers and other gadgets that make the escape room concept work. He started the business about two and a half years ago in Kansas City, and has been operating in Lawrence for about two years. He said he comes up with the ideas in various ways. Sometimes it is simply an idea he gets from watching an adventure movie or a James Bond flick. Other times he does a bit of research.
“We spend an inordinate amount of time coming up with cool clues,” Baysinger said. “If you check out the cipher section in your library — admittedly it is a small section — you would find people in the military and government have been using cipher speak since the beginning of time. You can get ideas from that.”
Baysinger’s company builds all of its own props and gadgets for its escape rooms in a facility based in Kansas City. The company, though, has a more unique project underway. The company is outfitting a 53-foot-long semitrailer to serve as a mobile escape room. The trailer actually will house two escape rooms.
Baysinger said he thinks it will be the largest mobile escape room business in the world. The company plans to have the trailer in the parking lot of Topeka’s Westridge Mall for Black Friday shoppers. (I can picture it now: You have one hour to escape before your credit card debt swallows you.) Baysinger said he plans to have the trailer in Lawrence several times per year, and he expects it to do good business as part of regional festivals and events.
Figuring out how to get into a large shopping center is generally not a problem in my household. (A semi-truck and a desire to get discounted Halloween candy can smash a lot of obstacles.) But when it comes to plans for a large shopping center south of the SLT and Iowa street interchange, I have learned access issues are delaying that multimillion dollar project.
In case you have forgotten, a North Carolina development group has filed plans to build an approximately 585,000-square-foot shopping center that would include large retailers, restaurants and hotel space. The plans were filed in June, but have yet to have a hearing at City Hall. The proposed site is at the southeast corner of the interchange.
The project was tentatively scheduled to go before the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission at its Oct. 25 meeting. But the city announced Thursday that won’t happen. Instead, the project’s hearing has been indefinitely delayed.
Sandra Day, the city planner who is overseeing the project, said the city, the state and the development group are struggling to come up with a plan that allows motorists to safely turn into and out of the proposed shopping center. The project wants access along Iowa Street, which is also U.S. Highway 59.
A traditional traffic signal may not work for the project because the proposed entrance point is already near the traffic signals that control the SLT and Iowa Street interchange. Day said a roundabout had been proposed for the site, but that didn’t garner favor with transportation officials. Day said the presence of the entrance and exit ramps for the SLT/Iowa Street interchange also complicates the access issues for the property.
Thus far, though, I believe the issues are all engineering-related. I haven’t heard of the parties arguing about who is going to pay for transportation infrastructure. When I’ve talked with the development group in the past, it has said it isn’t asking the city for incentives to build this project. Sometimes communities will chip in to pay for costs related to traffic signals and other such improvements. But I think that would be a deal-killer with this City Commission.
The project will have enough of a challenge getting a majority of city commissioners to approve the development under any conditions. The development group — Collett development — had a previous shopping center plan for the project rejected. It filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming the commission improperly rejected the project. That lawsuit is still pending, but in the meantime the group filed a new plan, likely because it received some encouragement to do so from some City Hall officials.
Thus far, the idea of whether the site is appropriate for a large shopping center hasn’t been a sticking point, I’ve been told. That may change once the project gets to the City Commission level, though. There have been opponents who argue the city already has enough retail space, and others who argue the city should be trying to steer new retail development to the area near Rock Chalk Park in northwest Lawrence.
But there are supporters for the project too. They note that large retailers don’t really get steered in particular directions. They instead just shift their focus to another community. Others in town simply want the new stores that the development group have been touting. Collett previously said Academy Sports, Old Navy, Designer Shoe Warehouse, a speciality grocer and others had expressed strong interest in the project.
Day said a date has not been set for the project to come before the Planning Commission for a hearing. But Day said she’s heard nothing from developers to indicate that they’ve lost interest in the project.
“They have not withdrawn the project by any means,” she said.
Downtown shooting causes city commissioner to talk about … panhandlers; are city leaders ready to tackle gun issues?
On a recent Sunday morning, there were pools of blood on the sidewalks of Massachusetts Street for all to see. That didn’t exactly make for the best dinner conversation at a Junior Achievement gala I attended on Wednesday.
But it did spark an interesting comment. It came from a community leader who told me she was surprised there weren’t more serious discussions in the wake of the downtown shooting that left three dead and two injured.
Come to find out, she was more right than I knew. About that same time, candidates for the Lawrence City Commission were participating in a forum for Downtown Lawrence Inc. There, you could find a community leader working hard to change the subject.
All candidates were asked a question about last week’s mass shooting and whether downtown needs more police presence. City Commissioner Matthew Herbert, who is seeking re-election, gave a thoughtful answer in some regards. He expressed sorrow over the tragedy, and perhaps correctly noted that more police officers in downtown likely wouldn’t have prevented the shootings.
Quite a few police officers were already downtown. They were so close to the shootings that no one had to call in the incident. Police officers heard the shots and came running.
But instead of explaining what he thought the community ought to be doing to prevent such tragedies, he did what politicians sometimes do. He pivoted. He pivoted to . . . panhandlers.
“Where we need our police presence is during the day,” Herbert said. “The biggest impact to downtown business owners is not happening at 1:40 in the morning. The biggest impact to downtown business owners is happening at 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon when everyday shoppers are feeling uncomfortable going into your storefronts because three or four people are sitting outside your front door begging for money.”
He did tell the crowd what Lawrence ought not to be doing.
“What we need to make sure we are not doing is killing downtown with the presence of police,” he said.
Somebody in the crowd — largely composed of downtown business owners — booed him at that point.
But perhaps the most important comments Herbert made were these:
“The events that happened Saturday evening/Sunday morning are, of course, awful,” Herbert said. “But I think we need to be very careful that we are not making decisions that legislate from a place of fear. If we as a City Commission are legislating from a worst-case scenario, I think we are making a huge mistake.”
Those comments should create a question for all of us: What makes us think this is a worst-case scenario? Why would we think this is a one-off incident — or an outlier, as Herbert also labeled it — to never be repeated?
For those who have been paying attention to crime news, plenty of red flags have gone up in downtown Lawrence just in the past three months. On Sept. 3, multiple gunshots were fired in the public right-of-way at 10th and Vermont streets in downtown. Two parked vehicles were damaged, but thankfully no people were in the way of those particular bullets. On July 17, two gun incidents occurred in downtown in one evening. A man inside Leroy’s Tavern revealed a gun as part of a fight that began in the bar. In a separate incident, a man at 10th and New Hampshire pulled a gun on a bystander. In the New Hampshire incident, the gun was a pellet gun. The perpetrator was a transient, so perhaps he didn’t have the money to buy a bigger one.
Look a bit outside of downtown, and you can find even more red flags. On Sept. 23, a man was apparently shot near Playerz sports bar near 19th and Haskell, although much about that shooting remains a mystery. It is not to be confused though with a previous shooting in the Playerz parking lot. That occurred in 2016, but the man was recently sentenced. He received a year’s probation and gets to keep his job at . . . a bar.
On Sept. 3, one man was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting incident at the Motel 6 in North Lawrence. On Aug. 11, a man was charged for attempted murder when he shot at an occupied car in the 3300 block of Iowa Street. I could list more.
There is a theme to all of those incidents: gun play in public spaces. It would seem that the chances of an innocent bystander getting shot in Lawrence are greater than we would care to admit. Why would we think such a thing wouldn’t happen in downtown, our most public and crowded of spaces?
Granted, coming up with solutions is not easy. But there are plenty of issues Lawrence leaders could be talking about. Here are four:
• Are we doing enough to tell the public that we don’t want them to bring their guns downtown? I recently walked Massachusetts Street and looked at the front door of every business. I found only 11 businesses with a no-gun sign. Only one of them was a bar, The Red Lyon. Most of the other drinking establishments just off Mass didn’t have them either, with The Sandbar being an exception. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the bars have policies against guns, but for whatever reason, they are not putting the sign up. They should. The first step to stopping bad behavior is making it clear that you want it to stop. Lawrence needs to be very clear about this message: Guns and alcohol don’t mix.
• Should the city issue security guidelines — or perhaps even regulations — for drinking establishments? Some places, like the Granada, use a metal detector wand to screen their patrons at the door. But there are many bars that don’t; they just rely on the doorman's eye. You may be noting at this point that the recent shootings did not take place inside a bar. True, but it also is important to recognize that people in downtown past midnight most likely were brought there by a desire to visit a drinking establishment.
• Should Lawrence police change their tactics? Perhaps undercover Lawrence police officers should periodically work the doors of a few establishments. Do the police department and bars communicate well enough when a patron does have a gun? While Kansas law makes it exceedingly easy to legally carry a concealed weapon, you still must be 21 or older to do so. Plus, people with certain convictions aren’t allowed to carry either. Is there a system in place to check gun-toters to make sure they are meeting those requirements?
• Can Lawrence effectively lead a lobbying effort for common-sense changes to gun laws? While concealed carry isn’t likely to go away anytime soon, could there be some modifications? Do lawmakers really think it is a good idea for people to be able to go into a bar, drink to excess and carry a gun? What’s the penalty if they do?
Or, we could talk more about panhandling. Indeed, it may be an issue worth discussing. But first, let's clean the blood off the sidewalks.
Lawrence’s golf course industry is changing again. A Kansas City development company — who traditionally has not been a golf course operator — has purchased a nine-hole course that is just down the road from the University of Kansas.
Block & Company, a Kansas City-based commercial real estate firm, recently bought the Orchards by Cobblestone Golf Course at 3000 Bob Billings Parkway. You remember the Orchards golf course. It is a nine-hole, relatively short course that you would play when you didn’t have enough money to play Alvamar or when the course marshall at Alvamar started eyeing you funny because your golf bag had a chainsaw in it.
In a press release, Block & Company said it will operate the course, and it hopes to improve its condition.
“We are planning to do a number of upgrades and improvements to the property in the upcoming year and give the course the attention it deserves,” said David M. Block, president of the real estate company.
Now, I’m the first to admit that when it comes to strategy on a golf course I’m often “befuddled.” (I think that is a fancy word for “in a creek.”) This transaction has left me a tad befuddled as well. In a normal situation, I would think that a commercial real estate company is purchasing a golf course like this for the land and not the course. The course sits on about 30 acres of property, which the release noted several times is very near the KU campus. Think of all the very profitable things you could build on 30 acres just a couple of blocks from KU.
But this isn’t a normal situation. As the Journal-World reported years ago, neighbors of the golf course were concerned that the struggling course was going to be sold and turned into apartments. So, the neighbors banded together, raised about $280,000 and gave it to the then-owner of the course in exchange for a covenant that ensured the course would either remain a golf course or open space. As far as I know, those covenants still exist. Although, I suppose Block could try to buy the development rights back from the neighbors.
Of course, it is possible that Block may just see an opportunity in the golf business in Lawrence. The community has lost 18 holes of public golf, as Alvamar has now converted to an entirely members-only golf course.
Block & Company noted several times that the Orchards course is set up for FootGolf in addition to traditional golf. FootGolf is a sport that uses a soccer ball and participants count the number of kicks it takes to get the ball to a specific spot on the course. Block says Orchards is one of only five FootGolf courses in the greater Kansas City area.
So, that could be a strategy for turning the business around. But generally, golf has been a tough business in Lawrence. The city struggles to make any money at Eagle Bend Golf Course, and that course has the advantage of not having a water bill or property taxes to pay. The former owners of Alvamar sold that course after they too struggled to make golf profitable. The new owners — led by Lawrence’s Fritzel family — have made it clear that the strategy for profitable golf is to build more apartments and living units around the course.
Plus, Lawrence soon will have nine more holes of golf in the market. The Links — the huge apartment complex under construction just east of Rock Chalk Park — will have a nine-hole golf course in the center of it. My understanding is that course will have some public tee times.
I’ve got a call into officials with Block. I’ll let you know if I hear more details.
In other news and notes from around town:
Walmart has announced that its remodeling project at is store near Sixth and Wakarusa is now complete. The project involved:
— A new electronics department that includes a lot of interactive displays.
— New LED lighting in the produce, deli and meat departments.
— Changes to the pharmacy department, including more service lanes and a new consultation room.
— Wider aisles and lower shelving in many parts of the store.
The store is hosting an event to celebrate the remodel from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 13. The event will include music, free food and lots of samples throughout the store.
I’m unclear on why Thailand hasn’t taken over the world. The Thai people clearly have made the most important technological advancement of our generation: They’ve perfected a way of making fresh ice cream almost instantaneously. Soon, Lawrence residents will get to see for themselves as a Thai ice cream shop is coming to downtown.
Work is underway to open 10° F Thai Ice Cream at 726 Massachusetts St. where Creation Station previously was located. Achen Chen, who previously ran a Thai ice cream shop in Philadelphia, said he hopes to have the Lawrence shop open later this month.
A pretty solid language barrier existed between me and Chen, so I didn’t get a ton of details about plans for his Lawrence venture. But it doesn’t take too much searching on the Internet to see that Thai ice cream is becoming a dessert trend.
Here’s how it works: A Thai ice cream store has something that looks like a small flat-top griddle, but it actually is an extremely cold griddle. I’m guessing in this case 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Atop the cold griddle, you pour liquid ice cream mix — the stuff you normally would pour inside a traditional ice cream freezer. Once the mix hits the griddle, you use a pair of spatulas to start moving the mixture around, kind of like you would with a stir-fry dish.
The mix starts to freeze while you move it around. At this point, you could just be a dumb American and pile it into a ball and put the ice cream in a cup or cone. Or, you could do it the Thai way. That involves spreading the ice cream out flat on the griddle, and then using a spatula to scrape it up in a manner that the ice cream comes off the griddle in a roll. Some people say it looks like a sushi roll. As someone who steers clear of sushi, I think that description is an abomination. I prefer to say it looks more like a large taquito. (Combining Mexican food references and ice cream is perfectly acceptable, as Taco John’s Choco Taco proved several pounds ago.)
Here’s a video from the "Today" show that gives you a sense of how this all works.
My main takeaway from watching this is that for years people have told me to stop playing with my food, but evidently it is now OK for me to pay someone else to play with it. (It does look fun. I wonder if I got a counter top cold enough whether I could replicate it in the kitchen. It shouldn’t be a problem, as during the winter my wife keeps the thermostat at about 10 degrees.)
As you can see, the rolled ice cream allows for some pretty elaborate presentations. The process also allows for lots of ingredients — fruits, nuts, candy — to be mixed into the ice cream. In that regard, it is similar to what Cold Stone Creamery and other such ice cream shops offer.
I believe though that 10° F plans to offer some unique flavor combinations that are a bit traditional to Thailand. Chen told me that green tea would be one of the ingredients available. Indeed, Mr. Google tells me that green tea ice cream is a thing in Thailand and other parts of Asia. It sounded like some coffee-flavored ice creams also would be part of the mix.
Chen mentioned several other combinations, but I didn’t follow all of those. We’ll have to learn about those once the store opens. In the meantime, I’ve got to find my spatulas.
Lawrence’s horse-drawn Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade is fantastic, except scurrying for candy in the streets can get a little messy. (Actually, don’t bother. That’s not candy, city slickers.) The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a great tribute to the Irish and out-of-control grocery carts. And the Earth Day Parade is a reminder of what great fun we’ll have when the entire world starts riding bicycles and all yoga is free.
But despite Lawrence’s love of parades, there is one type the community hasn’t had for years: a traditional Veterans Day parade. A group of local residents plans to change that this November.
A Veterans Day parade through downtown Lawrence is set for 1 p.m. on Nov. 11, which happens to be a Saturday this year. The route will go down Massachusetts Street roughly from Seventh Street to South Park.
That’s your cue to line the streets and put your patriotism on full display. I thought I should explain because it has been a long time since Lawrence has had a Veterans Day parade. Organizers believe the last official one was in 1968.
The organizing group — which is co-chaired by American Legion member Don Weis and Lawrence Police Department employee Kim Murphree — already has the necessary parade permit from the city. Now, they’re just looking for lots and lots of veterans.
Mike Kelly, a retired Air Force colonel and member of the organizing committee, said the group is looking for anyone who has served in the U.S. Armed Forces, regardless of whether they served during a time of war.
Kelly, though, said he wants to make sure Vietnam veterans particularly feel welcomed. He said that the idea for the parade stemmed, in part, from hearing from people who knew Vietnam veterans who still struggle with the reception they received upon returning from the war.
“I think there are a number of people who now just say it has been too long,” Kelly said. “We ought to say thank you, especially to the folks who haven’t gotten a thank you. We think there are some people out there who didn’t get a thank you.”
Any veteran who wants to participate in the parade can get in touch with Murphree at email@example.com or can leave a message on the group’s Facebook page, which can be found at The Lawrence Veterans Day Parade.
Local car dealers are providing several vehicles for veterans to ride in, several farmers are providing large flatbed trailers for veterans, and walking the parade route also is an option, Kelly said. He said the committee will accommodate whatever needs a veteran may have.
In addition to the veterans, Kelly said organizers hope to have a military band, honor guards from the sheriff’s office, police department, fire department and other organizations, and some military vehicles from the Army Reserve or another branch.
“It will be like a Humvee or something,” Kelly said. “No M-1 tanks on Mass. That wouldn’t be good for the pavement.” (It did give me a wonderful idea, though: a candy cannon.)
Kelly said people who would like to honor a deceased veteran can provide information to the committee via the Facebook page or email address. He said the tentative plan is for posters to be made with those names.
People who are interested in volunteering also can reach out via those same means. He said people would be needed to help clean up afterward and to help near the viewing stand, where an emcee will be announcing the names of veterans.
“But the main purpose of all this is just to say thank you,” Kelly said.
Marking your calendars to do that may be the most important role you can play.
I don’t know what it means when a community’s top building projects are hotels and churches, but that’s the case thus far in Lawrence in 2017.
It has been awhile since we have looked at the city’s building totals, but there’s a new report out at City Hall that measures building activity through August. In a nutshell, it is not as robust as it has been the past couple of years. But remember, 2015 and 2016 were two of the best building years in the city’s history.
Thus far, city officials have issued building permits for $96.5 million worth of projects. At this time last year the city had issued permits for $145.5 million worth of projects and in 2015 it was at $187.8 million in new construction.
This year’s total is still pretty good historically. Dating back to 2009, this year’s total is the fourth highest, trailing only the two years mentioned above and 2013.
The largest project of the year, thus far, is one that people just now are starting to see come out of the ground near Sixth and Wakarusa. City officials have issued permits for a $4 million Tru by Hilton hotel at 510 Wakarusa Drive.
We reported on the Tru by Hilton back in December when plans were filed with the city. As a reminder, plans call for the building to be four stories tall and have 82 guest rooms. The hotel will be a bit of a different one. The Tru brand dubs itself as the place where “cost-conscious meets cool conscious.” (I always thought that meant wearing the $2.99 aviator sunglasses from the convenience store, but Tru may have a different idea.) As for how the hotel will be cool, look for a more modern flair in design, furniture and a lobby that is hiply called a “Hive.”
The second largest project in the city also is a hotel. The city has issued permits for $3.9 million in construction for a Country Inn & Suites hotel at 2176 E. 23rd St., where Don’s Steakhouse used to be. (Ah, Don’s. I don’t know if it was cost-conscious meeting cool-conscious, but I do miss briefly losing consciousness after eating about a half-dozen twice-baked potatoes at Don’s.) That hotel will be an 89-room extended-stay property. The project is well underway, with crews currently installing the exterior stone and other finishes on the building.
The third and fourth largest projects in town are both churches. Construction work began recently on Connect Church at 31st and Iowa. As we have reported, that’s the church that used to be known as Lawrence Wesleyan Church and is selling its church facility at 3705 Clinton Parkway to a group that will redevelop it as an office building. The city has issued a building permit for $3.6 million for the Connect Church.
An addition at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1208 Kentucky St., is the fourth largest project in the city. The city has issued $3 million in building permits for a project that is adding a gymnasium and a performing arts center. You’ll be able to judge for yourself how big the addition is if you go to St. John’s popular Oktoberfest this weekend, although a certain German beverage has been known to distort judgments.
Even though it is not a church or a hotel, I might as well report on project No. 5, which in some ways is the most exciting. The city has issued $2.8 million in permits for a renovation at the Bioscience and Technology Business Center. As we reported in June, KU is converting the basement level of the BTBC building on West Campus into a multimillion dollar, high security clearance laboratory.
The hope is that the National Security Laboratory will enable KU scientists to do more research for the Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies. If you are scoring at home, we want Department of Defense folks on campus these days, not the FBI.
The Department of Defense work could be very lucrative. KU currently does about $1 million a year in research related to the Department of Defense. With the laboratory in place, KU believes it could see that total grow to about $20 million within three years.
One last bit of building permit news, despite real estate agents continually talking about a shortage of homes on the market, builders have not responded with a surge in single-family home construction. In fact, the number of single family and duplex home permits is down a bit from last year. Thus far, the city has issued 118 permits, compared with 123 during the same period a year ago. This year’s total is also down from 170 permits that were issued through August of 2015.
Maybe builders aren’t constructing as many homes, but they are building some really big ones. The city already has issued three permits this year for homes that cost more than $1 million. The top one is a $1.75 million property in the 1700 block of Lake Alvamar Drive. There’s also a pair of $1.2 million homes: one in the 100 block of N. Wilderness Way and another in the 200 block of Running Ridge Road. Both of those are in the Fall Creek Farms development near Peterson Road and Monterey Way.
Lawrence may become a world record holder for zombies, and I’m not even talking about the hordes of college students who have to get up before noon. No, Lawrence’s popular Zombie Walk in downtown is getting a boost this year. The walk will be part of something called Hellaweenfest on Oct. 27.
Look for a downtown street to be closed, a local restaurant to be converted into a haunted house, an outdoor horror movie, and some version of a world-record attempt. The organizers of the festival are hoping to set a world record for the greatest number of people who are dressed up as zombies doing the "Thriller" dance.
If your 1980s brain didn’t get eaten by Charlie Sheen, you may remember the "Thriller" video that came out in 1983. The Michael Jackson video has a scene where a large group of zombies dance in unison to Jackson’s hit song.
Ryan Robinson — a Lawrence-based promoter who was part of The Color Run craze — came up with the idea of breaking a world record in this unique zombie category. As far as world records go, you may want to use your zombie brain and not overthink it. I don’t think Guinness World Records necessarily has a record for zombies doing the "Thriller" dance. It does have one for people in general doing the "Thriller" dance, and that is 13,597 people in Mexico City in 2009, according to the Guinness site. But, they maybe weren’t all wearing zombie costumes.
Robinson and others have done a little research, and the largest zombie dance they found was in 2009 when a group of more than 1,500 inmates in a Philippines prison donned zombie makeup and did the dance as part of their exercise routine to commemorate the death of Jackson. (When you have time on your hands . . . )
Robinson thinks Lawrence can beat that number by quite a bit and make the world record claim. There already are 2,000 people people signed up to participate in the Zombie Walk. Robinson thinks the event will draw 3,000 to 4,000 people. The walk had originally been scheduled for Oct. 12, but that date was changed to coincide with the "Thriller" event.
“Halloween has just gotten so big,” Robinson said. “There are a lot of weird people out there in the world.”
I’ll leave it to others to confirm the zombie record, but I can confirm this should be one of your five best opportunities to dress up like a zombie this year in Lawrence. Here are some details about the Oct. 27 event:
The block of Seventh Street between Massachusetts and New Hampshire street will be blocked off for a street festival. Inside the closed-off block will be a beer vendor, carnival games, face painters, food stands and other such items. The area will be free to enter, although there will be lots of merchandise and donation opportunities to support the Lawrence Humane Society and Headquarters Counseling Center. Gates open at 4 p.m..
Wake the Dead Breakfast Bar, 7 E. Seventh St., will convert itself into a haunted house for the event. Rachael Ulbrick, a co-owner of the restaurant, said organizers are close to signing a deal with one of the really large haunted house companies in Kansas City to come outfit the Lawrence restaurant. The haunted house will be free to enter, but will be accepting donations for the Humane Society, Ulbrick said.
The zombie action kicks into high gear at 6 p.m. (Well, zombies don’t really have a high gear, but you get what I mean.) Organizers are asking all zombies who want to participate in the dance to show up at Seventh and Massachusetts Street at 6 p.m. to learn the dance moves. Ulbrick plans to have an area cheerleading squad on hand to provide the appropriate instruction. The world record attempt will begin at 7 p.m.
The actual Zombie Walk — which is the 11th annual — will begin at 7:05 p.m. at Seventh and Mass. If you are a spur-of-the-moment zombie, that is no problem. Robinson said there will be several zombie stations near Seventh and Mass. People can make a small donation to the Humane Society, and volunteers will make sure you have on the appropriate zombie makeup.
About 10 p.m., Headquarters Counseling Center will show the classic "Rocky Horror Picture Show" on a big screen set up on Seventh Street. Ulbrick said plans call for a more kid-friendly film to be shown beforehand.
Robinson, who owns Lawrence-based Silverback Event Productions, said he’s excited to be involved with a Halloween-themed event in Lawrence. He said Lawrence’s Zombie Walk already is one of the largest in the Midwest. He thinks the community has a chance to use its popularity to create a weekend festival in the future.
“I think it could certainly pull in 5,000 to 10,000 people over a weekend, if it turned into something like that,” Robinson said. “Something as quirky and as unmistakable as a zombie fest would fit in well with the vibe of Lawrence.”
I’ll let you determine what “miracle” the once popular Miracle Video store at 19th and Haskell was promoting. But the new store that has taken its place also is in a business where the topic of miracles comes up. It is a religious supply store, but perhaps not the type of religion you are thinking of.
The store sells supplies for Wicca and other pagan religions. And it is not new at it, either. The store is the Village Witch, which previously was located in North Lawrence in a stone building a couple of doors down from Johnny’s Tavern. Owner Kerry Johnson said the store had been in the North Lawrence location for about 10 years. Pagan religion, it seems, is not a passing fad.
But what type of supplies do you need for it? I know in my religion two of the most important are a pillow to make the pew softer, or, conversely, a clock for the pastor. I’m not sure it is quite the same in the pagan religions. Johnson said the store sells a lot of candles and incense, which can be used in ceremonial rituals, including the casting of spells. Yes, spell casting is part of the religion, and Johnson said it makes sense if you think about it in the proper context.
“A spell is very much like a prayer,” said Johnson, who said she enjoys explaining the religion to people. “It is a petition to the gods to act in your favor. We bump it up a bit by burning incense.”
Other supplies sold at the store include books, tarot cards, statuettes of gods and goddesses, cauldrons and ritual knives. I’m not entirely versed in how the knives are used, but you shouldn’t assume the worst. As a reminder, some religions use staffs and rods as part of their rituals.
Johnson said not everyone who comes into the store is a practicing pagan. She said the store has a large jewelry selection, which brings in many nonpagans, as does its incense inventory. With the move, Johnson has expanded by bringing in daughter-in-law Ashlie Christianson, who operates the Green Goddess. That business sells a variety of herbal products, including homemade soaps, essential oils, bath and body products, herbal teas and other such items.
Johnson said she decided to move the business to 19th and Haskell after the other woman she was sharing the shop with in North Lawrence decided to go in a different direction. Plus, the new location is convenient for her family’s other business. Her family operates the Cosmic Cafe that also is located in the 19th and Haskell shopping center.
Johnson said she is confident her customers will find her in the new location. She said customers come from throughout the region. Although Kansas City has several pagan-based religious stores, she said many Kansas City residents frequently come to Lawrence to check out her shop. Johnson said there are fewer pagan-based stores west of Lawrence, so Lawrence ends up being a shopping destination for those folks.
As for the future, Johnson said the number of pagans in Lawrence seems to be on the rise. In particular, the pagan branch known as Wicca is a fast-growing religion. Johnson has been part of the Wicca religion for many years and now is a high priestess of one of the covens that meet in Lawrence.
Yes, Wicca does involves several pieces of terminology associated with witches, as the store’s name implies. Practitioners are commonly called witches. But Johnson said there are quite a few misunderstandings non-Wiccans have about the religion.
Probably the biggest is an assumption that Wiccans are Satan worshippers. Johnson said the Wiccan religion actually doesn’t believe in a Satan figure.
“If you did something bad, it is on you, not on Satan,” she said.
The religion does believe in Karma. Female figures play a central role in the religion, and practitioners of Wicca generally don’t proselytize, believing that religion is a very personal decision.
Johnson said Lawrence has been a great location for the store because the community is open-minded about ideas outside the mainstream.
“We’ve never had a problem with people being respectful in Lawrence,” Johnson said.
UPDATE: In reporting this story I’ve learned that Johnson’s old business partner has a similar venture operating in North Lawrence. Kacey Carlson is operating Third Eye Sadie’s at 311 N Second Street.
The store also sells supplies for Wicca and pagan religions. But Carlson said the store plans to be a little bit wider in its reach.
“We’re aiming the space a little more toward global spirituality,” she said.
That means the store doesn’t just have jewelry and items from the Nordic or European regions, which are popular in Wicca, but also has some Tibetan and African jewelry too. Carlson thinks the store’s inventory will appeal to a lot of people regardless of whether they are interested in the items for their religious purposes.
“Sometimes I call it a shiny object girl store,” Carlson said. “There is a lot of emphasis on gemstones here.”
LMH moving closer to major new facility in west Lawrence; Kansas incomes near the bottom; Tyson plant to Nebraska?
It looks like the health care market is going to get a new multimillion-dollar player in west Lawrence.
Lawrence Memorial Hospital and Lawrence-based OrthoKansas announced Tuesday they have signed an “affiliation agreement” that will allow the two businesses to build a state-of-the-art orthopedic facility in west Lawrence.
And that may just be the beginning. LMH President and CEO Russ Johnson said any new facility would include other hospital services — although not inpatient beds — and would be on a site large enough to accommodate expansion.
“It is fair to say this is going to be substantially more than a clinic building,” Johnson said. “It really will be a new access point for (services).”
Johnson said the hospital hasn’t settled on a location for the facility, but has narrowed its search to a few prominent locations in west Lawrence. Design work for the facility hasn’t yet been completed, but Dr. Doug Stull, president of OrthoKansas said initial discussions have included plans for a building ranging from 60,000 to 100,000 square feet in size.
The work that OrthoKansas does — think knee surgeries, hip replacement, shoulder and hand procedures and other such surgeries — will be a major part of the new facility. Stull said OrthoKansas is planning to add at least three more doctors to it current roster of doctors trained to conduct specialized and complicated orthopedic procedures. Stull said he envisions the new center becoming a destination for people throughout the region who need speciality orthopedic work.
“Northeast Kansas will be the region we focus on for starters,” Stull said. “But if it grows the way it could, it could be a midwest hub for orthopedics.” OrthoKansas has been based in Lawrence since 1971, and has about 60 employees and six doctors.
With Lawrence’s reputation as a sports-oriented, active-lifestyle town, plus a growing senior population, Stull said it made good sense to build an expanded orthopedic center in Lawrence. Johnson said it also makes good sense for LMH to look for a new location beyond its Third and Maine facility in central Lawrence. He said LMH “absolutely” was committed to maintaining the Third and Maine campus as its main facility in the community and serving as the place for traditional inpatient hospital and emergency care.
But Johnson said LMH needs to think strategically about how it delivers outpatient care, which already accounts for nearly 80 percent of LMH’s revenues. That outpatient care includes everything from physical therapy to imaging work to visits to primary care doctors.
“It is clear that health care is moving toward a consumer environment and a consumer economy in a lot of areas, but especially outpatient care,” Johnson said. “Access and convenience is so important. This places us in a strong position for where the market is going.”
The University of Kansas hospital system has opened a new orthopedic and sports medicine center along Wakarusa Drive. It has partnered with Lawrence doctor Jeffrey Randall, who previously was with OrthoKansas.
The deal is significant because it marks the first time KU Hospital has entered the Lawrence market in such a big way. Importantly, KU Hospital made it known as part of its announcement that is is “working with other health care organizations in Lawrence to identify collaborative practice opportunities.” Johnson previously has said that if LMH can successfully complete this project with OrthoKansas, it should send a message to the broader medical community that LMH also is serious about partnerships and knows how to get them done.
Johnson said he hopes to have a site selected for the new facility within the next two months. Purchase of the site, among other details of the project, will have to be approved by the Board of Trustees for LMH, which operates as a nonprofit.
Stull said access to both Kansas Highway 10 and Interstate 70 will be important attributes for a building site. West Lawrence has two large areas of undeveloped commercial ground — one near Rock Chalk Park in northwest Lawrence and another near the new Bob Billings Parkway and South Lawrence Trafficway interchange — that have prime access to both roadways. LMH officials did not comment on particular sites they are considering.
I will let you know when I hear more details about the LMH-OrthoKansas partnership.
In other news and notes from around town:
While some people may need a knee replacement, I more often feel like I need a wallet replacement. A new report on Kansas incomes shows many of us may be in that boat.
Kansas had the fourth lowest income growth of any state in the country during the second quarter of 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Personal income grew by only 0.4 percent during the quarter, which ranked Kansas 47th among the states. The national average was 0.7 percent.
Growth in the Plains region, which includes Kansas, generally wasn’t too good in the second quarter. Here’s a look at how other states in the region fared:
— Iowa: up 0.1 percent
— Minnesota: up 0.5 percent
— Missouri: up 0.7 percent
— Nebraska: up 0.1 percent
— North Dakota: up 0.7 percent
— South Dakota: up 0.4 percent
All the states in the region saw their earnings from the farm sector decline. What was different about Kansas is it also saw a significant drop in the manufacturing sector.
Kansas saw earnings in the nondurable goods manufacturing sector drop by about $130 million. On a percentage basis, that was the largest drop of any state in the country.
When you look at the total manufacturing sector — which includes durable goods and nondurable goods — Kansas lost about $125 million in earnings during the quarter. Of the Plains states, North Dakota was the only other state to post a decline, and it was only a $1 million decline. In contrast, Minnesota and Missouri led the way with about a $260 million increase in manufacturing earnings.
One type of manufacturing plant that may not be coming to Kansas is a chicken-processing facility. We all know of the opposition that Tyson’s plan for a chicken plant outside of Tonganoxie has created.
Well, the speculation has certainly begun that Tyson may take the project outside of Kansas. The Omaha World-Herald has a story speculating that Nebraska economic development officials will try to recruit the plant now that Tonganoxie and Leavenworth County officials have backed away from a deal with Tyson.
Tyson hasn’t commented, nor have eco devo leaders in Nebraska. But there is speculation that the project could move to Nebraska because that state successfully recruited a chicken plant that will be operated by Costco. The discount retailer is building a chicken-processing facility in Fremont, Neb.
An economic development site selector told the Omaha newspaper that he expects Tyson to no longer consider Kansas for the deal.
“I suspect they’re going to leave Kansas in the dust and look for another low-cost, right-to-work place in the Midwest,” John Boyd, with Princeton, N.J.-based The Boyd Co., told the World-Herald. “Nebraska makes perfect sense.”
Worth keeping an eye on.
Checking in on whether Lawrence plans to submit Amazon bid, and dreaming of what it would look like just east of here
As Amazon looks for a new corporate headquarters, what the giant retailer needs to know about Lawrence is that we are here to help, the city’s top economic development official told me recently.
I already understand helping Amazon, although I’m still not sure it was a good idea to make Alexa my financial adviser. (She swears these 100,000 DVD copies of the “Baywatch” movie will be a good investment.)
But, of course, we’re talking about a project with much higher stakes. Amazon is looking for a site for a second headquarters that could employ up to 50,000 people in a few years. Both Kansas City and state of Kansas economic development officials have said they are going after the project aggressively.
What caught my eye, though, was St. Joseph, Mo. Much like Lawrence, it is on the edge of the Kansas City region. Economic development officials there recently made a big deal out of having a pair of sites that it wants Amazon to consider for its headquarters location.
I think the tech world might start checking the warranties of a few microchips if St. Joe becomes the headquarters for one of the world’s most powerful tech companies. (St. Joe should already be the economic king of the world. It makes the world’s best candy: Chase’s Cherry Mash.)
But I got to thinking that if St. Joe is submitting sites, I wonder if Lawrence is, too. Steve Kelly, vice president of economic development for the Lawrence chamber of commerce, said Lawrence isn’t doing anything that formal. But the community is very much interested in Amazon coming to the Kansas City region. He thinks KU would play a large role in that project and so too might Lawrence’s housing market.
“Lawrence is the type of town that can produce the employees Amazon needs,” Kelly said. “I see Amazon employees as bright, youthful, technology savvy. Those are the types of people who are attracted to Lawrence.”
KU, of course, could end up being a major resource for training engineers and other tech workers for the company. Kelly, who previously worked on landing big projects with the Kansas Department of Commerce, said the labor issue is most likely the top issue on the mind of Amazon leaders.
Technically, Amazon has said it is willing to consider sites as small as 100 acres for the project. That seems really small for such a large project. The thought that has gone through my mind is I wonder if the company would consider a site as large as 9,000 acres? The area kind of, sort of has one to offer: the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, which is just on the other side of the Douglas County line near De Soto.
No one I have talked to has any insight into what sites Kansas City or Kansas economic development leaders may submit to Amazon. But it would be hard to think of one more unique than the Sunflower site. It is so large that Amazon could actually build its city of the future on the property. (Think drones delivering bags of Doritos and Cherry Mashes.) Amazon leader Jeff Bezos is an innovative and futuristic guy. I wonder if that type of canvas would be enticing to him?
For what it is worth, a De Soto leader said he’s gotten no wind that any such proposal is in the works.
“But if Amazon is asking about us, give them my number,” De Soto City Administrator Mike Brungardt said. “I have a red carpet in the closet that I could roll out real quick.”
But Brungardt said developing on Sunflower property is still pretty complicated. Parts of the property have major environmental cleanup issues, and the amount of federal red tape involved with that cleanup has been tough for the property’s owner, Sunflower Redevelopment LLC, to deal with since it purchased the site in 2005.
Large amounts of the property are clean. Many of those sites are on the northern edge along Kansas Highway 10. But as leaders planned for the redevelopment of the property years ago, they put a condition on future development: The entire site must be cleaned up before any of the property can be developed.
Brungardt said he can see some logic in that. You don’t want a developer cherry-picking all the good sites and never cleaning up the bad sites. But Brungardt said it might be time to rethink that strategy, as it becomes clear that the Sunflower property may still be more than a decade away from being cleaned.
“We want to quit the hand-wringing and try to enact some change there,” Brungardt said.
A 9,000-acre site, all controlled by one entity, in prosperous western Johnson County is the type of asset that could be a game-changer, even for a community as far away as Lawrence. (It is about 15 miles from downtown Lawrence.)
Johnson County officials have a plan for a “Community in a Park” to develop at the site. Think houses, research facilities, high-tech firms, some commercial development all surrounded by a large ring of green space. Brungardt said it may be time to look at that plan too.
“It is a fine plan, and we wouldn’t have a problem with it,” Brungardt said. “But there is a reason the Army built an industrial complex there. It is good industrial property.”
As for Lawrence and Amazon, Kelly said his office would continue to stay in contact with officials at the Kansas City Area Development Council and the Kansas Department of Commerce, which are expected to play key roles in any proposal that is submitted to Amazon.
IT company buying west Lawrence building to expand; plans filed for new indoor baseball facility; Cottonwood to honor businesses
Often I need something akin to divine intervention to get my computer to work properly, so perhaps it is fitting that a growing IT company is buying a west Lawrence church building to expand its business. (Note: I have found pouring holy water on your keyboard is largely counterproductive.)
A group that is led by the owner of M Cubed Technologies has reached a tentative deal to purchase the building at 3705 Clinton Parkway that houses Connect Church — formerly known as the Lawrence Wesleyan Church. I reported earlier this year that Connect Church is building a new multimillion dollar church building just south of 31st Street where it turns into Kasold Drive.
Construction work has begun on that building, and as such, Connect Church has been looking for a buyer for its current building. M Cubed Technologies is an IT firm that provides tech support to a variety of businesses. The company has offices in Fresno, Calif., and Lawrence, but president and CEO Mehdi Honarvar is based in Lawrence.
He has put together a group to buy the church building and remodel it for office space. And just for good measure, the plan also includes a baseball facility.
First, the office space. M Cubed Technologies plans to move out of its office on Delaware Street and into the former church building. But plans call for the 15,000 square-foot building to house two or three other offices as well. Honarvar has a deal for a roofing company to locate its administrative offices in the building, and the group is seeking other tenants.
But a driving force for the deal is the growth of M Cubed. The company has about 50 Lawrence area clients currently, and business is growing because the company uses a European-style approach to tech support. I always associate Europe with the French, so I assumed the approach involved an early surrender and wine and baguettes. I was off-base, though. Apparently in Europe the tech support world is built much more on preventive maintenance rather than troubleshooting. He said businesses are starting to look for alternatives to the traditional U.S. model of tech support.
“If you don’t break down, (the IT firm) doesn’t make money,” he said. “The European model is more proactive. Keep it clean and keep it healthy so it doesn’t break down. We make money when a company doesn’t break down.”
The company has 15 employees currently, but only four of them are in Lawrence. Honarvar expects that number to grow, although he didn’t offer any projections.
The part of the project that may be most visible, though, is a new indoor baseball facility. The plans call for a vacant piece of land behind the current church building to house a new 9,800 square-foot indoor baseball facility. Think indoor batting cages, pitching mounds, areas for fielding drills and other such space for classes and instruction. Honarvar said some individuals who were involved with a similar type of business in Lawrence are leading that effort. I’m still waiting to get some additional information about that part of the project. I’ll let you know when I hear more.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Some Lawrence businesses and individuals soon will be honored by Lawrence-based Cottonwood Inc. The nonprofit that serves individuals with developmental disabilities has partnerships with businesses all over the community.
At an awards ceremony on Monday, Cottonwood will honor Lawrence’s Stoneback Appliance as the JobLink Employer of the Year. The Lawrence Transit service and its operator MV Transportation will be honored as the Outstanding Community Partner of the year. Lenexa-based Clinical Reference Laboratory is being honored as the Cottonwood Industries Business Partner of the Year.
In addition, Cottonwood will honor several individuals, including Peggy Wallert, Distinguished Service Award; Pennie Goodrich and Angela Trybom, Shining Star Award; and Gene Planker and Miguel Ramos Caring and Commitment Award.
The awards ceremony will be at 7 p.m. Monday at Free State High School.
I know when I’m on the treadmill it is sometimes hard for me to tell when I’ve caught my second wind. (Sometimes I have problems hearing the beeping of the defibrillator.) But there is a new set of numbers that is making it clearer that Lawrence’s economy is catching its second wind.
After years of being a laggard, Lawrence’s economy had the best growth rate of any metro area in Kansas or Missouri last year, according to a new government report.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released its annual estimate of gross domestic product for each metro area in the country. GDP is just a fancy way of saying the government measures the total value of everything produced in a metro area. It generally is regarded as the best way of measuring the size of a community’s economy.
The report showed Lawrence still doesn’t have a very large economy compared to most metro areas, but it has been growing at an above average pace.
Lawrence's GDP grew by 2.4 percent compared to the average metro growth rate of 1.7 percent. The 2016 numbers were in addition to a strong showing in 2015. That year, Lawrence’s GDP grew by 3.6 percent compared to a metro average of 2.9 percent. That’s good news because the prior three years had been pretty lackluster. In 2014, Lawrence’s economy grew by 0.4 percent compared to a national average of 2.3 percent. In 2013, 0.5 percent for Lawrence compared to 1.5 percent for the national average. In 2012, Lawrence’s economy shrank by 2.6 percent compared to 2.2 percent growth for the average metro.
While Lawrence’s growth rate wasn’t near the tops for the country — Bend, Ore. and Lake Charles, La. both grew by 8.1 percent — it was tops for any metro area in Kansas or Missouri. Here’s a look, with the total size of the metro’s economy and its 2016 growth rate:
— Lawrence: $3.88 billion; up 2.4 percent
— Topeka: $9.145 billion, up 2.2 percent
— Jefferson City, Mo.: $6.55 billion, up 2.2 percent
— Columbia, Mo.: $7.8 billion, up 1.7 percent
— Springfield, Mo.: $16.31 billion, up 1.1 percent
— Kansas City: $114.37 billion, up 1.0 percent
— St. Louis: $140.71 billion, up 0.8 percent
— Manhattan: $3.11 billion, up 0.5 percent
— Joplin, Mo.: $6.46 billion, up 0.1 percent
— Cape Girardeau, Mo.: $3.68 billion, down 0.1 percent
— Wichita: $28.59 billion, down 1.4 percent
— St. Joseph, Mo.: $4.64 billion, down 1.6 percent
As far as what has caused Lawrence’s economy to grow at a good rate, 2015 and 2016 both were excellent years for new construction in Lawrence. The report shows the construction industry did add to Lawrence’s growth, but not as much as you may think. Of the 2.4 percent growth in the Lawrence economy, construction accounted for 0.18 percentage points. Higher up the list was durable goods manufacturing. That could be items like the garage doors made at the Amarr plant, for example. Durable goods added 0.39 percentage points. Non-durable goods, which could be the dog food made at the Big Heart plant, added 0.25 percentage points. The greeting cards made at Hallmark fit into one of those two categories, I believe, but I’m not sure whether a greeting card is durable or non-durable. (The ones that come from me mainly are just categorized as late and illegible.)
Education and health care added 0.32 percentage points. Professional and business services added 0.34 percentage points.
But the industry that added the most to the Lawrence economy in 2016 — by far — was the trade industry. It added 1.14 percentage points to Lawrence’s growth rate. In other words, almost half of all of Lawrence’s growth in 2016 was attributable to greater trade in the community. The category includes both retail and wholesale trade. The last couple of years have been good on that front, as the monthly sales tax reports out of City Hall have shown. Whether it be the addition of new retailers like Dick's Sporting Goods and Menards or whether it be new visitors to town via Rock Chalk Park or whether it be some factor we haven’t yet figured out, this report is another sign that something positive is happening in Lawrence’s retail sector. (By the way, all these numbers are adjusted for inflation, so it is not just that prices are going up.) Numbers like that one are probably a reason why there are a fair number of retailers interested in locating in Lawrence.
The other interesting part about this report is it serves as a reminder of just how small Lawrence really is. Lawrence sometimes believes the size of the world is somehow commensurate to the size of a basketball, which causes us to think we are a bit bigger than we are in actuality.
When you look at some of the numbers above, it reminds you that Lawrence’s economy is not very big by metro standards. Part of that is because Lawrence’s metro area is comprised of just one county, where other metros have multiple counties. But the reason our metro area is only one county is because that is about as far as Lawrence’s economic influence stretches.
There are several communities that stand out on that list. Joplin, Mo. has an economy that is almost 70 percent larger than Lawrence’s. Columbia, Mo. has an economy that is more than twice the size of Lawrence’s. I know what you are thinking, Columbia is much more isolated than Lawrence. It is true that isolation allows it to be more of a regional center than Lawrence. However, St. Joseph, which basically is in the shadow of Kansas City, has an economy that is about 20 percent larger than Lawrence’s.
Of course, Lawrence leaders may not want the town to be much bigger than it is today. I’ve long thought, though, that the GDP numbers give us a good way to make some comparisons, and perhaps, set some goals for what type and size of economy we would like to have.
In case you are interested, here are some numbers from some other communities in the region or other large university communities:
— Ames, Iowa: $4.35 billion, up 1.3 percent
— Bloomington, Ind.: $6.02 billion, up 2 percent
— Boulder, Colo.: $21.67 billion, up 1.6 percent
— Grand Junction, Colo.: $4.58 billion, down 3.5 percent
— Fort Collins, Colo.: $14.18 billion, up 3.8 percent
— Iowa City: $8.66 billion, up 0.7 percent
— Lubbock, Texas: $11.85 billion, 2.6 percent
— Morgantown, W. Va.: $6.69 billion, up 0.7 percent
— Provo, Utah: $20.49 billion, up 6.1 percent
— State College, Penn.: $7.9 billion, down 0.2 percent
— Waco, Texas: $10.58 billion, up 3.9 percent
Lawrence’s Peaslee Tech has hired a new executive director, and he has a plan to grow the vo-tech school to more than 1,000 students in the next three to five years.
Kevin Kelley, who begins as executive director on Oct. 2, also can tell you why the glue on an envelope tastes so bad, which surprisingly helped him land the top job at Peaslee Tech.
Kelley is the former president of Kansas City-based IPAC Corp., which makes industrial adhesives, including the glue you lick on an envelope. Leaders with Peaslee Tech said Kelley’s background as a business owner was a key reason the nonprofit board hired him to lead the school.
“He understands technical training because he had his own plant,” said Shirley Martin-Smith, chair of the Peaslee Tech board. “He understands the need to have trained employees. I think he relates very well to the business community.”
As for the bad-tasting envelopes, the reason behind that is simple. The industry could never agree on a flavor for the glue.
“We could never find a taste that worked for everybody,” he said.
Kelley, 63, ran IPAC Corp. from 1985 to 1995. Upon selling that business, Kelley decided to pursue a relatively new-found interest. He had been teaching business classes part time for an area community college. Kelley went back to school to get his master's and doctoral degrees, then moved into the world of academia.
Kelley had stints with the University of St. Mary in Overland Park and Donnelly College, and he was the director of business and community development for Metropolitan Community College-Institute for Workforce Innovation.
Kelley has been with Peaslee Tech for about three months, serving as the school’s program manager. Kelley, who lives just a few blocks from the school near 31st and Haskell, previously had served as a volunteer at Peaslee Tech.
He comes to the job with ideas on what needs to happen at the school, which was founded as a joint effort of the city, county, chamber of commerce, school district, local economic development leaders and community colleges in the region.
“To support the workforce pipeline in Douglas County, we need to be serving about 1,000 people per year, and I project we need to do that in the next three to five years,” Kelley said.
The school currently has about 400 students and about 16 program offerings, ranging from building and industrial trade programs to IT and health care training. Kelley said he would like to see the program offerings grow to about 24 in the next few years.
Kelley said a key milestone for the school will be receiving accreditation from the Kansas Board of Regents. Kelley said work is underway for Peaslee Tech to become accredited as a private, nonprofit educational institution. If that designation is received, it will open up new avenues for students to receive financial aid to attend the school.
The school itself, though, also is trying to figure out its finances. As we’ve reported, Peaslee Tech has an approximately $1.5 million balloon payment due on its mortgage in January. While the city and county provide funding to Peaslee Tech, neither government has agreed to fully fund the balloon payment. That has left leaders with Peaslee Tech and the chamber looking to negotiate a deal with a consortium of area lenders to refinance the mortgage for one to two years. A deal has not yet been struck, but Martin-Smith said leaders are still optimistic a deal will be reached before the end of the year.
Such a deal is critical for the short term, but Kelley said the school needs to have a longer term plan for its finances. He said Peaslee Tech likely needs to turn to something that most every other college uses: an endowment.
“That is a recommendation I have made,” Kelley said. “We need to develop a Peaslee Foundation. We’ll see what form it takes, but it needs to be an important part of our sustainability.”
Kelley said the school also will continue to rely on grants and tuition, and likely will have discussion with the Lawrence school district about funding issues. Peaslee Tech does currently serve a number of high school students who receive both high school and college credits. While some of the community colleges that partner with Peaslee Tech get money from the school district, Peaslee Tech itself does not get any money from the school district. Kelley is hoping that will change.
Kelley also is planning on continued support from Douglas County and the city of Lawrence, both of which have been providing between $150,000 to about $300,000 in annual funding for the school.
“We want continued support from the city and county governments in some method,” Kelley said. “But it doesn’t really have to be an annual stipend. There are other ways we can work with them.”
Kelley said working with local governments would be a big part of his job. He has experience in that realm too. While he was a business leader in Kansas City, Kan., he served as the chairman of the citizen task force that successfully lobbied for the consolidation of Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County governments. He became involved in that effort, which involved hours of communication with government officials at the state and local level, because of rising business costs in Kansas City.
“Our taxes were soaring,” he said. “It wasn’t going too well, and I felt like I needed to try to do something.”
One other funding model that has been mentioned for Peaslee is that the school become a full-fledged public institution governed by the Kansas Board of Regents. That would require a legislative act, but would give the school taxing authority. Kelley said the idea is worth exploring, but he stopped short of endorsing it.
He said there are some significant advantages to being a private, nonprofit school. One of the main ones is greater flexibility to add new programs to meet the changing needs of the community.
Kelley, who grew up in Lawrence, said he believes changing educational needs will need to be addressed in coming years. That may create some challenges, but he said it also can create great satisfaction as the school adapts and meets the needs of area residents.
“When you are doing this well, every day you are helping people get a job or get better at a job,” Kelley said. “There is really not much better work to do.”
Although it kind of has the makings of a good reality television show, the idea of a large student apartment complex surrounding a day care center has some obvious negatives. You may recall, though, there is a Lawrence plan that calls for such a project.
Recently I reported on an out-of-state development firm that has begun talking about building a large student apartment complex on vacant land at the southwest corner of Clinton Parkway and Crestline Drive.
I told you then that I would let you know if I heard anything from the proposed developer, Gilbane Development Company. Well, I have gotten a little bit of new information.
You may remember that the proposed project has an odd twist: Plans currently call for the large apartment complex to basically surround on three sides the small commercial day care business Lawrence Child Development Center.
Gilbane spokesman Wes Cotter told me the company is trying to strike a deal with Lawrence Child Development Center.
“We have been trying to work with them to address their comments,” Cotter said in a voicemail. “We continue to do that, and we have offered a fair market value, as well as other options for that property.”
If you recall, Teresa Prost, the owner of the day care, told me the apartment developers don’t currently plan to buy her property but rather plan to build one of the apartment buildings on the north side of her day care and another apartment building on the south side. She doesn’t like the idea of the apartment complex backing up to her business, particularly the playground it has for children.
So, the fact there may be some attempts at negotiation is notable. This may be a situation similar to the HERE apartment project near the Kansas Union. That massive project originally was planning to build around three sides of 91-year old Georgia Bell’s home at 1115 Indiana St. But ultimately the development company reached a deal to buy Bell’s property after the odd situation received quite a bit of public attention. Perhaps that is where this is heading. We’ll see.
As for other details about the project, Cotter said the project was too preliminary to share much information. The company doesn’t want to commit to a size for the project. A previous conceptual site plan showed about 220 apartments spread over two buildings. Based on the size of the parking lot, it looked like those apartments would have a total of about 500 bedrooms. Cotter, though, declined to confirm any of that, saying that those numbers are subject to change as the company continues to hear comments from neighbors and further studies the market.
Cotter, though, did confirm that the apartment complex would have a particular focus on attracting students, although it hopes to be somewhat targeted in that approach.
“We think we’ll have a real strong focus on graduate students and young professionals,” he said.
The company also has tweaked its original concept plan. The new concept plan still shows the two buildings on each side of the day care, but the new plan places some of the outdoor gathering areas farther away from the day care. You can see the plans below. The first one is the new version, while the second one is the previous plan. Neither plan has yet been filed with the city, which will have to give several approvals before the project could move forward.
A new report raises the question of whether Lawrence has gotten much, much richer; new statistics for the state and a new ranking
Congratulations, Lawrence residents. You are rolling in it. The ‘it,’ of course, is money. At least that is what a new Census report suggests.
The Census Bureau through its American Community Survey program this week released its latest one-year snapshot of Lawrence and other communities. The report shows that the median household income in Lawrence increased by a whopping 16 percent in 2016. The report estimates the median income for a Lawrence household grew to $54,243, up from about $46,500 a year earlier.
If this is true, it is huge news for the community. Lawrence has long been a community that has trailed the state in income numbers. But at $54,000, Lawrence would basically be very close to the statewide average of about $55,000. Or here is another way to look at it: There are about 36,000 households in Lawrence. If all of them, on average, have about $7,700 more than they did in the prior year, that’s about $277 million of new money in the Lawrence economy.
Forget buying a new boat. Let’s upgrade to a yacht.
Actually, I’m getting word I’m not yet allowed out of the dinghy. The statistics from the Census Bureau deserve a closer look. The American Community Survey program relies on taking samples from across the community, and sometimes the sample sizes can be small enough that the margins of error are pretty high. That is the case here. The margin of error is plus or minus $5,800. When you compare that with 2015’s numbers in its margin of error, you come up with this: Median household income in 2016 was between $48,443 and $60,043 compared with 2015 household income that was between $41,464 and $51,664. So, in actuality, it is possible that incomes declined from about $51,000 in 2015 to about $48,000 in 2016.
You know what they say, what’s a few thousand dollars between friends?
But the numbers still deserve some attention. It is still quite possible that Lawrence has experienced an increase in household income. Xan Wedel, a data engineer for KU’s Institute for Policy and Social Research, is a Census expert. She notes that the Census will be coming out with a more detailed report in December that relies on much larger sample sizes and has smaller margins of error.
“We will know how much stock to put into this in December,” Wedel said. “We can be more confident about the data then.”
I think there is a good chance that Lawrence is seeing some growth in incomes. The country as a whole is. What will be interesting to watch is whether we are seeing growth that is significantly above national and state averages. But it is hard to fathom that we’ve seen a 16 percent increase in incomes.
But I’ll get my captain’s hat out just in case.
• I won’t pass along any other Lawrence numbers from the report because the margins of error are just too big. But the report does a better job of providing a snapshot of Kansas as a whole. So, let’s take a quick statistical tour of the Sunflower State:
— We are getting older. In 2016, 11.2 percent of the Kansas population was 65 or older. That’s up from 9.9 percent in 2010.
— We love that internet. In 2016, about 80 percent of Kansas households had broadband internet service. That’s up from 73 percent in 2013, when the Census started tracking the issue.
— There is a bit more money. Kansas’ change in median household incomes wasn’t statistically significant from 2015 to 2016. But if you go back to 2010, it is clear we have seen growth. In 2010, median household income ranged from about $47,000 to $49,000. In 2016, median household incomes ranges from about $54,000 to just less than $56,000. Kansas has had some recovery since the Great Recession. Whether the recovery has been as great as other places is a separate debate.
— There is less poverty. The percentage of families below the poverty line in 2016 was 7.9 percent. In 2010, it was 9.5 percent.
— There are more renters in the state. Renters are becoming a bigger part of the state’s housing market. In 2016, about 34 percent of the state’s households lived in a rental unit. That’s up from just under 32 percent in 2010.
In other news and notes from around town:
• While we are talking about numbers, here’s another one: No. 6. Lawrence is the sixth best college town in America, according to one of the many such rankings for that sort of thing.
The financial website 24/7 Wall Street named Lawrence to its list as a top college town. The website looked at Census statistics related to income, crime, unemployment and several other statistics, and then gave special attention to the number of college students who live in the community. It looks like bars and restaurants per capita also played a role.
As a side note, we probably should expect Lawrence to show up on a lot of lists in the coming year or so, if list-makers use the Census numbers noted above and the 16 percent income growth figure. With that, we’ll be crowned king many times.
As for this ranking, here are a few other towns in the region: No. 20, Lincoln, Neb.; No. 10, Norman, Okla.; No. 9, Fort Collins, Colo.; No. 4, Boulder, Colo.; No. 1, Ames, Iowa.
A list-maker who puts Ames at No. 1 is a bit like the producers of all those beautiful home shows about Alaska. They only ever go there in the summer.
Dillons on 23rd Street plans some renovations; redevelopment of former Jock’s Nitch building continues
Look for some changes at the Dillons store on 23rd Street. No, Amazon is not buying the store as part of its plan to take over the grocery world and start delivering food via drones. (What’s the big deal? Flying food in my house is common, although it doesn’t involve a drone — just an ill-timed comment about the meatloaf.) While drones aren’t in the mix, the Dillons store does plan to add a convenience.
Plans have been filed at City Hall for the Dillons at 1015 W. 23rd St. to add a pharmacy drive-thru. Several of the Dillons stores in town have a drive-thru pharmacy, but the 23rd Street store does not. The plans filed with the city allude to some future renovations too. A manager at the store directed all my questions to a corporate spokeswoman. A spokeswoman for Dillons on Thursday confirmed plans are in the works for the store, but she couldn't yet provide details.
The plans on file, though, call for the drive-thru pharmacy to be built on the east end of the building. It would involve adding a canopy, some landscaping islands, lane markings and other such improvements. Pretty standard stuff.
The plans filed with the city also call for the installation of some new freezer display cases inside the building. Also pretty standard stuff. (We need a drone dropping watermelons from 2,000 feet to liven this article up.) Maybe this will do it: The plans also call for “entrance consolidation” to be done at the store as part of a separate project. Mysterious . . . but not all that interesting. Actually, who knows. I’m assuming the entrances they’re talking about are the entryways into the building rather than entrances into the parking lot, for example. Either type of change could be significant. Perhaps there is a larger store makeover planned as part of this separate project. I’ll keep an eye open for more details.
In the meantime, expect to see some construction work in the foreseeable future at one of the busier grocery stores in town.
In other news and notes around town:
• You perhaps have noticed some construction work across the street from Dillons. We reported a few months ago that clothing retailer Plato’s Closet was moving into a portion of the space previously occupied by Jock’s Nitch at 1116 W. 23rd St.
Indeed Plato’s Closet has moved from its west Lawrence location and now is open at the 23rd Street location. It soon will be getting a new neighbor. Renovation work is underway for Midwest Vacuum to move into another part of the building by Oct. 1.
The pair may make an odd couple, in that Plato’s Closet is expected to be a big draw for the nearby college crowd that is looking for affordable, gently used clothing. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t buy many vacuum cleaners in college. Once the piece of pizza got stuck in the first one, I took it as a bad omen.
Sarah Degondea, owner of Midwest Vacuum, is excited about the pending move. The store currently is located at 1149 W. 23rd, in the strip center that includes Party America, Copy Co, UNI Computers and several other businesses.
Degondea currently rents that space, but she decided to make the move because she had the opportunity to buy the entire Jock’s Nitch building. (Jock's Nitch is still in business, but closed that 23rd Street location.)
“Even being an Iowa State grad, I really, really like Lawrence,” she said. “I wanted to buy real estate. I wanted to make a larger investment in Lawrence.”
In addition to the vacuum space and the Plato's Closet space, the building has one more 1,200 square-foot unit, which Degondea is marketing as office space.
As for the vacuum store, it will have about the same amount of space and will continue with its current business strategy. It sells upper end vacuum cleaners, and repairs about any type of vacuum cleaner.
“We repair what the big boxes sell,” she said.
Degondea said the business is considering getting back into the sewing machine business. The store currently does repair sewing machines, but doesn’t sell new models. She said she is learning about that business and may add a line of sewing machines in the future.
Only half-jokingly, Degondea said she also is considering offering vacuums for rent, particularly to the college market, especially during move-in an move-out times.
“They probably should use one at least once a quarter,” she joked.