Book distributor, sportswear store new business additions

Hank the Cowdog can now call Lawrence home.

Western International Inc. — a distributor for the popular children’s book — has moved its corporate offices and warehouse from Reno, Nev. to Lawrence.

The company this week is finishing its move into the former home of Kingston Printing at 2220 Delaware Street.

The company has two full-time employees and about five part-time employees who manage the approximately 15,000 book titles that the company ships out to retailers across the country.

“But we don’t sell a lot to Barnes & Noble or large stores like that,” said Erin Stauffer, who along with her husband Todd Stauffer recently purchased the business. “We mainly sell books to tack shops, feed stores, and other mom-and-pop kind of country places.”

The company largely focuses on books about horses, but also distributes books on Native Americans, American history, and several children’s books including the Hank series and the popular My Little Pony series.

Stauffer said she and her husband decided to relocate the business to Lawrence in order to be closer to family.

“Plus, being in the middle of the country should help us with shipping,” Stauffer said. “It might help us get into some other markets.”

In other business and development news:

• Manhattan-based GTM Sportswear has filed a site plan at City Hall to open a new retail store on 23rd Street. The company — which produces customized sports uniforms, warm-ups and other apparel — plans to open in what will be the former O’Reilly Auto Parts Store at 1008 W. 23rd Street. The store also plans to sell Kansas University merchandise, according to the site plan. No word yet on when the store may open. O’Reilly Auto Parts is in the process of moving to a new store near 23rd and Louisiana streets.

• New duplexes may be going up in the area near 19th and Learnard. Planners have received a request to rezone several pieces of property from single family to duplex zoning. The rezoning request involves the property at 423 and 533 E. 19th Street, 1926 Learnard and 1934-1940 Learnard. There currently are three duplex buildings that are non-conforming uses on the property today. The rezoning would allow for another two duplex building to be constructed, said Sandra Day, a planner with the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department. The rezoning is expected to be heard by the Planning Commission in April. After that hearing, city commissioners will be asked to approve the rezonings.

• The Sandbar at 17 E. Eighth Street is seeking to add a new sidewalk seating area. Previously, only restaurants were allowed to install seating areas on the downtown sidewalks, but last year commissioners changed that ordinance. The new rules allow some existing bars to install sidewalk seating areas to accommodate customers who want to smoke and drink outside. Commissioners recently approved the first such area at the Eighth Street Taproom, which is next door to the Sandbar.

• Research and laboratory space may be added to the downtown area. The owners of the building at 647 Massachusetts Street are seeking a special use permit that would allow research and laboratory uses on the second floor of the building. The groundfloor space — which houses Starbucks, Cold Stone Creamery and other businesses — would continue to be used for retail. Mark Andersen – a Lawrence attorney representing the landlords- said a tenant hadn’t yet been found for the space but that discussions were underway with one company. Andersen said the hope is that the building can play host to a company that is involved in research activities associated with Kansas University’s efforts to receive National Cancer Center designation.