Retailer, repair shop of more than 30 years closing down business along 23rd Street

Lawnmowers for your yard. Snowblowers for your driveway. Chainsaws for your golf game. For more than 30 years, Lawrence’s Kaw Valley Industrial has been selling those common items at its store along 23rd Street. No more.

Kaw Valley Industrial has closed its business at 1105 E. 23rd Street, and owners are in the process of hauling away inventory that has accumulated during the business’ 31-year run as a retailer and repair shop for all things related to small engines.

Owner Mark Lauber confirmed that he has reached a deal to sell the property to Lawrence businessman R.D. Johnson, but Lauber didn’t have details about what type of development Johnson may have in mind for the property.

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Lauber has enough on his mind loading up trailer after trailer of goods. He plans to reopen Kaw Valley Industrial in a slightly smaller format in the coming weeks. He plans to run the business out of his home, which is near the eastern edge of Eudora.

“I’m retirement age and just want to slow down a bit,” Lauber said of his reason for selling the 23rd Street property.

Lauber said the new location will continue to sell equipment and repair it. He plans to remain a dealer for many of the brands he currently carries, which includes Husqvarna, Jonsered, Echo, Briggs and Stratton, Kohler and others.

But working at a location other than a corrugated metal building on 23rd Street will be something different for Lauber. While he’s had Kaw Valley Industrial for 31 years, he’s actually been working at the building for 50 years. Prior to it becoming Kaw Valley, the building was home to a Ford Tractor dealership, and Lauber was a mechanic there.

Lauber said he thinks the building dates back to 1953.

“It has been a good, sturdy building,” Lauber said.

Lauber said he is under the impression that Johnson intends to keep the building. I’ve got a call into Johnson, but haven’t yet heard back about any plans that he may have for the property. Johnson, who is the former owner of R.D. Johnson excavating, has been active on several development fronts in Lawrence and Douglas County in recent years. He’s been part of the development group that is building homes in northwest Lawrence as part of the Oregon Trail subdivision near Rock Chalk Park, and he also is a developer of the new housing development just southeast of 23rd and O’Connell Road in eastern Lawrence, among others.

The 23rd Street corridor is one that could see a significant amount of redevelopment in the future. The Kaw Valley Industrial site is just the latest large site to become vacant or available for redevelopment. The former Hastings property near 23rd and Iowa remains vacant, and at some point the Hobby Lobby store near 23rd and Ousdahl also will become vacant.

As a reminder, we’ve reported that Hobby Lobby has reached a deal to move into the former JC Penney’s location near 33rd and Iowa streets. Work has begun to remodel the exterior of that large building. Several of you evidently have forgotten about that project because you’ve asked what is happening with the property. In addition to Hobby Lobby, plans filed with the city show that a HomeGoods store and the discount retailer Five Below will occupy the building.

Plans call for Hobby Lobby to occupy about 52,000 square feet of the building, which will make the store a bit larger than its existing location. HomeGoods — a home fashion and accessory store that is owned by the same retail company that has Marshalls and T.J. Maxx — will take 22,000 square feet of the building. Five Below will take the remaining 10,000 square feet.

No word yet on when the stores may open.