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QuikTrip moving into restaurant business at 23rd and Haskell; home sales fall in May; area businessman in running for national entrepreneur of the year
There is a major new player coming to the restaurant business on East 23rd Street, and its familiar name may surprise you: QuikTrip.
Just like Da Vinci didn't stop painting after the Mona Lisa, QuikTrip isn't going to let its culinary creations end with the masterpiece known as a roller grill full of hot dogs and polish sausages.
The QuikTrip at 23rd and Haskell recently has received a building permit for $135,000 worth of renovations at the store to install a full service kitchen. QT spokesman Mike Thornbrugh said the kitchen will allow the store to serve items like pizzas, sandwiches, flatbreads and other items that are made-to-order on site. Currently, most of QuikTrip's food offerings are made off-site and shipped to the store pre-packaged.
The renovations will move QuikTrip in the fast-food restaurant industry, in addition to its gasoline and convenience store items.
"The two main sellers in convenience stores have been gasoline and tobacco products," Thornbrugh said. "Those are two products that we don't really believe are going to grow. We've been working very hard to make the switch to the fresh food side."
QT is in the process of installing kitchens in most of its nearly 700 stores across the country. Reports out of Tulsa, which is where QT has its headquarters, give a better idea of the menu the revamped stores will offer. In that market, personal pizzas are made-to-order from a choice of six toppings, flatbread sandwiches come in chicken bacon ranch, chicken quesadilla, and spicy barbecue steak, toasted sandwiches include grilled cheese, American bacon cheddar, three-cheese Italian, BLT with cheese and bacon, egg and cheese.
For those of you who want to take the European vacation without the trip to Europe, the store also will offer something called kolaches, a European breakfast pastry that features a sweet dough but savory fillings such as sausage and bacon.
Also on on the menu are speciality coffee drinks that will be made by a barista, frozen lemonades, smoothies and soft serve ice cream.
According to the Tulsa World article, the company is adding about 2,000 employees nationwide to staff the full-service kitchens. Thornbrugh said work at the Lawrence store was in its final stages and should be completed within a week or so.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Homes in Lawrence would sell at a much greater rate if they were all equipped with roller grills and polish sausage air fresheners. But they aren't, and thus far 2014 is showing a slowdown in local home sales.
Home sales in Lawrence totaled 133 in May, down about 7.5 percent from the activity levels in May 2013. The slowdown continues a trend that has taken hold in 2014. For the year, home sales in Lawrence totaled 380 through the end of May, a decrease of about 7 percent during the same time period a year ago.
At this pace, it is looking more likely that Lawrence's two-year streak of increasing homes sales will come to an end in 2014. But leaders with the Lawrence Board of Realtors are trying to put the numbers in perspective. This year's totals are still much better than just a few years ago when the housing market in Lawrence and across the country was really struggling. The 380 homes sold thus far in 2014 represents an increase of 31 percent compared to the same period in 2012 and 46 percent from 2011.
Susan Bonham, president of the Lawrence Board of Realtors, also noted that the market isn't down across the board. She said sales of homes priced below $200,000 are ahead of last year's pace, but homes above the $200,000 mark are lagging past totals.
Other numbers from the recent report include:
— 13 newly constructed homes sold in May, down from 15 in May 2014. While not positive, that number is an improvement in the trend. Through May, year-to-date sales of newly constructed homes total just 26 units. That's down nearly 37 percent from the same period a year ago.
— $159,350 is the median selling price of a Lawrence home, year-to-date. That's down 5.7 percent from the same period a year ago.
— The median number of days a home sits on the market before selling is 40 in 2014, compared to 57 through the same time period a year ago.
— 451 homes were on the market at the end of May, up nearly 15 percent from May 2013. Real estate agents have said that increase is a positive sign for the market because an increase in inventory is expected to bring more buyers into the market.
— At least one measure is indicating the slowdown in sales may continue for the short term. The number of pending contracts in May totaled 212, down from 242 in May 2013.
• A longtime area businessman is in the running for a prestigious national entrepreneur of the year award.
Smitty Belcher, chief executive officer of P1 Group Inc., has been named a regional winner in the Entrepreneur of the Year contest organized by the business consulting firm Ernst & Young.
P1 Group is one of the region's larger mechanical contractors, and it has deep ties to Lawrence. The company is an outgrowth of Huxtable & Associates, which was founded in Lawrence in the 1920s. P1 Group continues to have a large operations center in Lawrence near 23rd and Haskell.
Belcher has been an active member of the Lawrence business community and area philanthropist. As one of 10 winners in the midwest region of the competition, Belcher now is a finalist for the national entrepreneur of the year award, which will be announced in November.