Bridal shop to take over space of longtime downtown retailer; city considering issuing new citizen survey; project to honor Langston Hughes
Someday soon, a man going to downtown Lawrence is going to be confused. (Women all over the city are saying, “I’ve already heard this one.”) A man will go into the storefront at 731 Massachusetts St. and expect to revel in the comfort of bats, balls, jerseys and other macho merchandise that was the hallmark of Francis Sporting Goods. Instead, he’s soon going to find wedding dresses and everything else brides are looking for to make a perfect day.
As we reported in November, Francis Sporting Goods has closed its downtown retail location, and now is focusing on its warehouse business with teams and colleges. Now, we can tell you a deal has been struck for Lawrence-based J. Lynn Bridal to move into the spot this June. The bridal store is moving from its location at 2449 South Iowa St. in the Holiday Plaza shopping center.
J. Lynn owner Jena Dick said she decided to move the two-year old business because she wanted a location with better visibility. Plus, she thinks there are plenty of brides who will want to bring all their bridesmaids downtown for a day of shopping and strolling on Massachusetts Street.
“It is going to be more of an experience than where I’m at right now,” Dick said.
J. Lynn focuses mainly on wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses, tuxedos and all the fashion accoutrements necessary to cause two people to say “I do.” The bridal shop will be next door to Ruff House Art, which is a specialty letterpress shop that produces wedding invitations. And within a short walk of the shop are several jewelry stores. And shoe shops. And hair salons. And flower shops. So, while some men may be confused about the changes at 731 Mass., there are others who may be downright scared: fathers of the bride. At least there are several banks and cocktail purveyors within walking distance as well.
“We feel like it is going to be an ideal spot,” Dick said. “When I first opened, I always dreamed it would be on Mass.”
Dick is closing the store on South Iowa Street at the end of May and hopes to be in the downtown space in early June.
In other news and notes from around town:
• I can only hope that one of the new Lawrence city commissioners takes on the personality of the late-great "Family Feud" game show host Richard Dawson by frequently yelling during the meeting “Survey says . . .” Perhaps the odds aren’t great, but regardless the city is poised to get a new survey.
Commissioners at their meeting tonight are scheduled to discuss creating a citizen survey that will be conducted by a scientific polling group. The idea is not a new one. The city has conducted these surveys every few years for the last decade or so. I think the last time the city conducted the survey was back in 2011. Back then, the main finding was that residents weren’t too happy with the condition of city streets, but were relatively pleased with other City Hall service levels.
The city created a draft list of questions for commissioners to consider using this time. Many of them are the same as past surveys, which allows the city to monitor changing attitudes of residents. Among the questions are those that ask residents to rank their satisfaction with basic city services such as police, fire, water, sewer, streets, sidewalks, parks and recreation, planning, trash collection and other such basic City Hall functions. The survey also delves into downtown issues such as availability of parking, downtown safety and downtown beautification. Also proposed is a section on city taxes and what type of value residents believe they’re receiving in that category.
One section also gives residents the ability to control how city money is spent, for at least a moment. The survey ask residents to assume they have $100 to spend. How would they divide it among the following city issues: develop public safety facilities for police and fire; support for economic development initiatives such as “a conference center, tax incentives, etc.”; reconstruction efforts for the Ninth Street Corridor project; develop parks and recreation facilities such as trails, athletic fields, pools, etc.; repair and restore deteriorating infrastructure such as streets, city buildings, sidewalks; bike lanes, sidewalks and other nonmotorized transportation infrastructure; or other.
Commissioners are expected to discuss whether to move ahead with the survey at their 5:45 p.m. meeting this evening. A cost estimate for the survey hasn’t been provided yet, but in 2011, we reported the survey cost about $30,000.
• We should take a survey someday to figure out how many Lawrence residents understand the importance of the late-great American poet Langston Hughes. Hughes grew up in Lawrence, and there is a new effort underway to highlight his time here.
City commissioners at their meeting tonight will consider writing a letter of support for an approximately $60,000 grant being sought by a Kansas University associate professor and several other community members. The grant would pay to have about 20 bronze plaques or signs posted around town recognizing places that were important in the young life of Hughes. The grant also would pay for several guided tours of the community for people who wanted to learn more about the poet and his formative years in Lawrence. The group — which is led by Jacob Dorman in KU’s history and American studies department — is seeking the grant from the Douglas County Natural & Cultural Heritage Grant Program.
According to the grant application, sites that likely would receive a marker are:
— New York Elementary School, which Hughes attended.
— St. Luke AME Church at Ninth and New York, which Hughes attended.
— The former Central middle school site at 901 Kentucky, which Hughes attended.
— The Lawrence Public Library
— The Carnegie Building, which used to serve as the public library, a site Hughes often spent time at.
— Kansas Union, which was the site of a 1958 poetry reading by Hughes.
—The Eldridge Hotel, which is a location Hughes is thought to have worked at.
— The former Barteldes Seed Company building at 804 Massachusetts St., which is likely where Hughes had his first job.
— The former Bowersock Opera House, which is where Liberty Hall is today. Hughes often attended shows at this location and had to sit in segregated seating.
— A site near the Kansas River. Hughes wrote a famous poem titled “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.”
— Homesite of grandparents Mary and Charles Langston, 732 Alabama St.
— Memorial Stadium. Hughes would attend KU football games at McCook Athletic field, which was near the current day stadium site.
— The site of a former grocery store at 820 Massachusetts St. The grocery store at the location was partially owned by Hughes’ grandfather.
— Ninth Street Missionary Baptist Church, 901 Tennessee St. Hughes’ family occasionally attended church at the site.
— The former Patee Theater site at 828 Massachusetts St. The site, which is now home to the Lawrence Antique Mall, previously was a movie theater that allowed blacks for a short period of time during Hughes’ time in Lawrence. The theater burned in 1955 and was replaced with the current structure.
— Pinckney School, where Hughes attended elementary school for a year.
— Watkins Community Museum of History, which previously was home to Watkins Bank. Hughes’ grandmother faced the constant threat of foreclosure by the bank, according to the grant application.
— Douglas County Courthouse, where Hughes’ mother briefly worked.
— Homesite of Hughes’ uncle Desalines Langston, 726 Alabama St.
— Homesite of Mary and James Reed, 731 New York St. The Reeds were family friends with whom Hughes stayed for a time.
The Douglas County grant committee is expected to make a recommendation on funding within the next few days.
Area bridegrooms have it easy these days. It used to be that planning a wedding involved so much running around that you would ruin a perfectly good set of radials. (As I’ve explained many times, that’s why I bought her a new set of Goodyears for our first anniversary.)
But now there has been a new development in the world of local wedding planning. J. Lynn Bridal has opened up a full service bridal and wedding shop in the Holiday Plaza shopping center at 2449 South Iowa Street. The shop has a heavy emphasis on dresses, tuxedos and other such nuptial accessories. More on the new business in a moment. But first I want to help area grooms. Think of what is located just across the parking lot from the new bridal store. First, there is Kief’s Audio and Video, where you can pick up some new audio equipment for the reception. Then, there is Biggs BBQ, where you can sample and order the several hundred slabs of ribs that will be needed for the reception meal. And finally, there is Sunflower Pawn, where you can get the gifts for the wedding party. Wedding planning done in about an hour. She’ll be so surprised.
I suppose you could run the plan by the folks at J. Lynn, if you feel you must. The new business — which opened about two weeks ago — also provides wedding consulting services.
Owner Jena Lynn Dick said she decided to open the shop after seeing so many people travel to Kansas City or elsewhere to do their wedding shopping. She’s confident a bridal shop can do well in Lawrence because the city seems to be gaining quite the reputation as a wedding location.
“I really couldn’t believe that Lawrence didn’t have anything like this,” Dick said. “With the university, lots of people keep KU near and dear to their hearts and want to get married here. It is really a neat city for weddings.” Dick — who grew up in Lawrence — said the shop offers bridal gowns, bridesmaid dresses, mother’s dresses, flower girl dresses, shoes and accessories, tuxedo and suit rentals, and seamstress services. The business also will take on entire event planning.
The business also carries a line of prom and formal wear dresses.