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.
West Lawrence grocery begins new program to allow customers to order online, pick up groceries at the curb; an odd KU ranking
The two most dangerous words on the internet: Buy now. When Amazon was created, my house ended up with a library, complete with lobby furniture. And one thing I can assure you is that my household likes food a lot better than we like books, so I wonder what will happen now that a Lawrence Dillons store has become one of the few in the state that take online orders.
Dillons has announced that its store at Sixth and Wakarusa has become the second in the state that is using a new online ordering system called ClickList. Shoppers log onto dillons.com/clicklist and start perusing the approximately 40,000 grocery items on the website’s list. Shoppers then can hit the magical “buy now” button, then select a time they want to pick up their groceries. The Sixth and Wakarusa store now has a drive-up lane where a store associate will bring the groceries to your car and load them. (This will be particularly helpful in my household because my wife still struggles with parking an 18-wheeler.)
Shoppers pay at the curb. According to a release from Dillons, the associate is equipped to handle coupons as well. (With my wife, “equipped to handle coupons” means the associate has a pillow because that is needed while she goes through her file cabinet of various clippings.)
There is an important detail in all of this: Dillons will charge online customers a $4.95 service charge for each order, although the company is waiving the charge for the first three orders as part of a promotion.
I plan to be out at the store this morning to get a rundown from Dillons officials about the new system. Based on information provided by the grocer, here are some details I know now:
— Orders placed before midnight are available for pick-up the next day at a specific time chosen by the customer.
— The online order service is available 24/7, but curbside pickup must be scheduled for a time between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.. Dillons has created four designated parking spots for online shoppers on the east side of the building. Each spot has a sign with a telephone number. Shoppers call the number, and tell an associate that they are here to pick up their order. Payment is done at the curb, but must be done with some form of a credit or debit card.
— The service has about 40,000 items available for purchase, but Dillons is adding to that list regularly. Some items that aren't included are beer, tobacco products, hot food items, and prescription drugs. But meat and produce items are included in the service. I was told that shoppers can provide specific instruction on how they want their steaks cut, for example, or what type of firmness they want in their produce. One Dillons executive told me there is an online customer that routinely orders 10 bananas — five of them green and five of them yellow.
Dillons started the Clicklist program at a Wichita store in June. The Lawrence store and one in Topeka recently became the second and third stores in the state to add the program. Dillons parent company, Kroger, has been testing the online ordering system since late 2014. Dillons officials say the service has been very popular with senior citizens, parents with young children, and busy professionals.
The service certainly is a trend in the grocery industry. The Hy-Vee store on 23rd Street has been offering online ordering through its Hy-Vee Aisles Online program for about a year, said Daniel Chang, assistant store operations manager. An official with the Sixth Street Hy-Vee said that store has been offering an online shopping service since October.
Thus far, there aren’t any indications that Dillons is starting a door-to-door delivery service for groceries. But that's probably worth keeping an eye on. The Hy-Vee service does offer a delivery option. As grocery companies start becoming more advanced online, it will be interesting to see if that is the thing that eventually leads to a major change in how we buy our groceries.
I get a little misty at this thought, but the day really is coming where I can sit in my easy chair, ask for a bag of Doritos and a cold beverage, and have them brought to me in a way that I don’t have to duck upon delivery.
Look for Dillons to begin rolling out the online service in many other stores across the state later this year.
In other news and notes from around town:
• I'm optimistic that the KU football team will provide plenty to cheer about this year, but in case you are looking for a backup plan to show your Jayhawk pride, I have news of an unusual ranking: KU has one of the best looking fountains in all of college landscaping.
The website lawnstarter.com ranked the 15 most picturesque college fountains because, I assume, they were tired of all the fights that were breaking out over the topic at tailgate parties across the country.
The fountain that got the attention at KU is the Chi Omega fountain at the western entrance of Jayhawk Boulevard. The Chi O fountain was ranked No. 12 on the list. It got high marks for its English-inspired design and the lush landscaping that surrounds the fountain.
But it did not beat out Drumheller Fountain at the University of Washington. It has Mt. Rainier in the background, so that's not really fair.
Both Texas and TCU landed on the list ahead of KU, but thankfully our rivals at K-State and Missouri did not, although they protest that they have beautiful fountains. They are located outside of almost every restroom, and when you push the right button, the water shoots up in the air and provides hours of entertainment.
New cheese shop opens in west Lawrence; home sales gain steam in April, but shortage of houses persists
I have news of cheese and also news of people buying new homes. And though it may sound like it, this isn’t a follow-up to the wild cheese party that ended up with Gouda in places that was no Gouda.
First, the cheese news. Look for a new store inside the Dillons at Sixth and Wakarusa. The longtime New York-based purveyor Murray’s Cheese has signed a deal with Dillons’ parent company to open cheese shops across the country. Lawrence has landed one of them.
The Murray’s Cheese shop at the Dillons at 4701 W. Sixth St. opened last weekend. According to information from Dillons, the cheese shop will stock more than 175 varieties of cheese, plus it will carry other items such as local honey and preserves, olives, crackers and charcuterie.
That is right, charcuterie. My, how far we have come in a short time. I honestly had never heard of the word before late 2013 when I wrote about plans for Hank Charcuterie to open at 19th and Massachusetts. I thought it was a critter that we may find the fellows on "Swamp People" chasing down. But now I have learned that charcuterie is French for “too expensive to serve to my friends.” (Don’t let that dissuade you, though. That’s more of a commentary on my friends than the prices.) In case you somehow don’t know what charcuterie is, it refers to sausages, pates and other specialty meat products that go well with cheeses and other appetizers.
To be honest, I also hadn’t heard much about Murray’s Cheese shop before, but that's mainly because I have tried to cut way down on the number of cheese conversations I have during the course of a day. According to Dillons, though, Murray’s is one of the more famous cheese shops in New York. It has been open since 1940, and has drawn large crowds to its original location in Greenwich Village.
The deal with Dillons calls for Murray’s to stock its most popular cheeses at Dillons. Looking at the store’s website, it appears varieties include: Parmigiano-Reggiano; English Cheddar; Irish Cheddar; Roquefort blue cheese; Havarti, Alpine style Grand Cru cheese; a variety of BellaVitano cheeses; marinated mozzarella; and more than a half dozen styles of Gouda, including smoked, aged, farmhouse, double cream and others. They even have a cheese platter called “Life is Gouda.” (Wait a minute. I thought I had the market cornered on Gouda puns.)
One other point to note about the new cheese shop: It encourages people to sample a different variety of cheese on each visit.
In other news and notes from around town:
• If I took Murray’s up on that offer, I may need to buy a house with wider doors. Maybe that is what is going on with other folks in town. Whatever the case, Lawrence home sales were up in the important month of April.
Home sales in Lawrence grew by 10.5 percent in April, compared with April 2015 totals, according to the latest report from the Lawrence Board of Realtors. I’m sure that was a welcome site for Lawrence real estate agents because 2016 sales had started off a bit sluggish. During the first quarter of the year, sales were down by 1.1 percent.
But with April’s strong showing, homes sales are now up for the year. Through April, sales are up 3.7 percent compared with the same period a year ago.
The report, though, does provide reason for concern. The number of homes on the market in Lawrence continues to decline significantly. At the end of April, 250 homes were on the market, which is down from 346 in April 2015 and 429 in April 2014. Real estate agents believe a small supply of homes ultimately will lead to a reduction in sales and also an increase in home prices. At the moment, it is making for a seller’s market.
The result is homes are not sitting on the market for long. Thus far in 2016, the median number of days a home sits on the market before selling is 28. That’s down from 43 in 2015 and 60 in 2014.
“The pace of this market can be challenging for everyone,” said Carl Cline, president of the Lawrence Board of Realtors.
Other statistics from the recent report include:
— Sales of newly constructed homes were up slightly in April, totaling nine versus seven in April 2015. For the year, sales of newly constructed homes are up 37 percent, totaling 22.
— The median selling prices of homes this year is $167,565, up 5.4 percent from the same period a year ago.
— The total dollar value of homes sold in Lawrence thus far in 2016 is $61.1 million, up 6.7 percent compared with the same period a year ago.
Dillons completes renovations at Sixth and Lawrence store; Wal-Mart begins work at South Iowa location
Surely this age we're living in will go down in the history books as . . . The Gilded Grocery Era. I will tell my grandkids how there used to be a day when you couldn't go into a grocery store and get fresh ground peanut butter, and they will laugh at me. (Maybe because of the peanut butter, or perhaps because by then I'll be an old man with eyebrows like hedge rows.)
But the point is, we're living in a great age to buy groceries. Nearly every place in Lawrence that sells groceries has undergone some type of significant renovation in the last several years. As we've reported several times over the last few months, the Dillons store at Sixth Street and Lawrence Avenue is the latest.
Dillons officials on Wednesday declared the renovation of the store complete, and held a well-attended ribbon cutting. The major structural change to the building was the addition of a drive-thru lane for the store's pharmacy. But there was more to the renovations than that. Dillons pulled building permits for $1.2 million worth of construction on the site, making it the 10th largest building project in the city, thus far, in 2013. Here's a look at other improvements at the store:
• A revamping of the natural and organic foods department, which is branded Nature's Market. It includes a new bulk foods section.
• Hand-made sushi
• New selections of gourmet cheeses and an olive bar. (My grandkids will laugh when I tell them I used to have to order gin to get an olive at a bar.)
• An expanded salad bar
• A new beverage center with expanded fountain drinks and coffee selections
• A new floral department
• New color schemes throughout the store, and new energy efficient lighting
Dillons is holding special events through Saturday to celebrate the renovations. The Sixth and Lawrence store will host a t-shirt sidewalk sale from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. On Friday and Saturday, pay attention here, the store will offer large amounts of food samples. So, while I'm uncertain what historians will call this age we're living in, I have no doubt what this weekend will be labeled at the Lawhorn household: The Toothpick Times. As in: Kids, any food with a toothpick stuck in it, grab it, because that's supper tonight. (Don't feel sorry for them. They love it, especially when we put on the fake mustaches and wigs to go through a second time.)
What's better than writing about one retail renovation? Well, writing about two, of course. Bob Catlin, the store manager at the Walmart on South Iowa Street, confirmed to me renovations are underway for that store.
Catlin said perhaps the most noticeable interior improvements will be all new fixtures and cases for the store's produce department. The exterior of the store, however, also will get a new look. He said the entire exterior of the building will be repainted with a different color scheme, and new signs for the building and along the road are on the way. All the departments of the store will remain open during the renovations, which are expected to be complete sometime next month.
More LJWorld City Coverage
We’ll see if talk of traffic calming produces a calming feeling for you on a Monday. I’ve got word of two projects in the works at Lawrence City Hall.
• If you drive in the area behind the new Dillons store at 17th and Massachusetts streets, you may want to get a new set of shocks. Seven speed humps are coming to the neighborhood behind the store.
As part of the store’s City Hall approval last year, Dillons officials agreed to provide $40,000 for traffic calming devices in the neighborhood just east of the store. City officials are now set to begin that project.
Plans call for two speed humps on 17th Terrace between Barker and New Hampshire, and two more on 18th Street between Barker and New Hampshire. In addition, three speed humps are planned for New Hampshire Street, with all planned for the general area near 17th Terrace and 18th Street. Click here to see a map.
The city will accept bids for the project on July 16. Work is expected to begin in late July. Project is expected to be completed by the end of August.
• Red light, green light, yellow light. Blue light? I’m hearing talk around City Hall that Lawrence motorists may start seeing some blue lights at a couple of intersections in Lawrence.
No, I don’t think this is a sign that Kmart is now sponsoring traffic control in the city. (Remember the Blue Light specials in the old Kmarts?) Instead, my understanding is that this is part of a pilot project that involves KU’s engineering school.
I’m still waiting to get official details, but here’s what I’ve heard thus far: Crews, perhaps beginning today, will be installing a blue light on the top of traffic signal poles at 23rd and Iowa and 23rd and Louisiana. The blue light is meant to provide police officers another way to monitor whether motorists are a running a red light.
The idea is that the blue light will be able to be seen from a 360 degree radius. Currently, the best way for a police officer to know whether a motorist has run a red light is to be behind the motorist, where the officer can see both the light and the vehicle. The blue light will come on the moment the traffic signal turns red. Since the blue light can be seen from almost anywhere, an officer can be anywhere near an intersection and monitor it for red light runners.
I’m still a little short on details on the project, but when I hear more, I’ll let you know.
UPDATE: My colleague Ian Cummings is now looking into this story for us. He is reporting that the installation of the lights indeed was scheduled for today, but some technical difficulties have postponed it. No word yet on when the installation may occur, but it might be a few days now.