An organic mattress? Maybe my wife will put it in a salad, and maybe it won’t taste any worse than some of the other unfamiliar ingredients she makes me try. Or maybe organic mattresses are the next thing to take off in Lawrence’s vibrant organic movement. A furniture store has moved into downtown with the idea of finding out.
As I told you earlier this month, I had heard that a furniture store was moving into the 800 block of Massachusetts Street. Well, indeed that turned out to be the case. Eagles’ Rest Natural Mattresses and Furniture has moved from its North Lawrence location to 815 Massachusetts, the former home of Mobilosity.
Eagles' Rest has been open for about a week in its new location, said Diane Gerke, owner of the establishment. Thus far, lots of folks are coming in to take a look at organic mattresses. Gerke said her previous location in North Lawrence — for the last six years she was in the little antique district near Seventh and Locust streets — had a steady but slow stream of customers. Since moving to Massachusetts Street, she said there are days the store averages 125 people or more.
“The difference of being on Mass Street is crazy,” Gerke said. “We think the store can very much be a destination thing.”
So, what is an organic mattress? Gerke and her store’s website explain that it is a mattress that uses materials such as organic cotton fiber, organic wool and, importantly, layers of natural latex foam. The mattresses also are made without petroleum products or other solvents common in traditional mattress brands.
Gerke said some of her customer base certainly are people who are looking for a green, earth-friendly mattress. But she said lots of her customers choose the mattress simply because of durability and comfort issues. Gerke said the organic style of making mattresses isn’t new, but rather is how mattresses were commonly made up until the 1970s or so.
She said the natural latex foam, while more expensive, lasts longer. She said some of her mattress brands have a 20-year warranty. Another unique aspect is that each mattress Eagles' Rest sells is custom made. Gerke said most mattresses have three layers of foam, and at least three choices of foam stiffness: soft, medium and firm. By mixing and matching the type of foams — two firms and one soft, for example — you can change the feel of the mattress. Since the mattress is being custom made, you can have one half of the mattress feel one way and the other half of the mattress feel the other. (Half and half? There are men out there who get more than one-eighth of the mattress? Why am I just now learning of this?)
The store also is in the furniture business. If you remember when Blue Heron used to be open in downtown Lawrence, you are likely to recognize some of the same styles at Eagles' Rest. The store carries some of the same brands and upholstery that the once popular Blue Heron stocked.
“We are very different than the big box stores,” Gerke said. “Most of our furniture is American-made. I can tell you who made it, where it came from, how it is made. We definitely are not into the idea of disposable furniture.”
Gerke said the Massachusetts Street location is slightly bigger than her previous North Lawrence location, and she said the store has plans to eventually use the basement space in the Mass Street location.
Allison Vance Moore and Kirsten Flory of Lawrence’s Colliers International office brokered the deal for the new space.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Maybe the folks of Lecompton can pick up some work on the side as campaign consultants for certain GOP hopefuls. Thus far, a Lecompton campaign is going better than several of those.
As we reported last month, Lecompton is putting forward a big effort to be named the Best Small Town in the state by Kansas! Magazine. Well, Lecompton has been chosen as one of 15 finalists. That’s not bad, considering that every Kansas town with a population of fewer than 5,000 people was eligible.
Kansas! Magazine has started its last round of voting for the contests, which will be named in the winter 2016 edition of the magazine. Lecompton was one of two Douglas County communities eligible for the contest. Baldwin City is the other, but it did not make the finals.
If you are not familiar with Lecompton, it is in northwest Douglas County and has a population of a little more than 600. But it has a heap of Civil War history. It was the site of the Lecompton Constitution, which sought to admit Kansas as a slave state into the union. It garnered national debate at the time, and was one of the flash points leading up to the Civil War. Lecompton still has several buildings from that time period, including the former Lane Museum building that now serves as the Territorial Capital Museum. Here’s a look at the 14 other communities vying for the title of Best Small Town.
— Council Grove
— Little River
— Scott City
People can vote once per day through May 31. Youcan vote online at travelks.com/ks-mag/small-towns/
New Lawrence media company plans to launch global business magazine; Lecompton lobbying to be named best small town in Kansas
What Rolling Stone magazine did for music, a new Lawrence-based magazine plans to do for the world of business. I’m still unclear on whether that means Donald Trump soon will show up on a cover smashing a guitar, but regardless the new venture already is paying dividends for Lawrence.
B the Change Media has opened a Massachusetts Street office, hired seven staff members and plans to launch a magazine, website and other media products with plans for a global audience in June.
“We look at business through a different lens,” said Bryan Welch, chief executive officer of the new company. “Our interest is in covering businesses that are doing good in the world.”
B the Change Media’s promotional materials describe the concept this way: Rolling Stone captured the moment when music became an emblem of identity and an instrument for social change. B the Change Media will do much the same for business.
“I believe consumers will move their dollars to companies that they believe are doing good, as soon as they can trust them,” said Welch. “They want to spend their dollars with companies that share their values.”
Welch has had success in the magazine world before. For 19 years he served as the CEO of Topeka-based Ogden Publications, which publishes large magazines such as Mother Earth News, Grit, Farm Collector and others. Perhaps articles about spring tooth harrows and manure spreaders aren’t your thing, but Ogden has grown into a major employer in Topeka. Welch said the company had about 150 employees when he left last year.
“I wouldn’t be surprised that we become as big as Ogden or bigger,” Welch said. “I don’t think that is out of reach, but we’ll find out. It is hard say, though, because there has never been a media company focused on what we’re focused on.”
As I mentioned earlier, the company has seven employees currently, but is working to fill five more positions. Jobs are in the company’s editorial, advertising and event divisions, Welch said. The company has office space at 916 1/2 Massachusetts St., which is the space above Earthbound Trading Company.
B the Change Media, which is a for-profit venture, has teamed up with B Lab, which is a nonprofit venture that certifies companies “who meet the highest standards of verified, overall social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.”
Almost 1,600 companies have been certified by B Lab, and those companies have more than 40 million followers. Welch said that gives B the Change Media a good base of potential readers and advertisers.
The name of the magazine, Welch said, will be B. In addition to the print publication, there also will be a robust web presence, and the company plans to be in the event business too.
Welch said the decision to locate the headquarters for the new media company in Lawrence was easy. He’s lived on a farm just outside of Lawrence for years.
“This is my home, and that is why I put it here,” he said.
In other news and notes from around town:
• I’m sure you are all getting ready to caucus. Soon we’ll see those “Caucus Today” signs in yards everywhere, or those lapel stickers that say “I Caucused.” I don’t need to tell you that both the Democratic and Republican caucuses in Kansas are on March 5.
But you don’t have to wait until then to cast a vote on an issue. Folks in the Douglas County community of Lecompton are urging you to nominate Lecompton as the Best Small Town in Kansas.
The contest is being run by Kansas! Magazine, the publication that is published quarterly by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. (Full disclosure: Sunflower Publishing, a division of LJWorld’s parent company, designs and edits the magazine.) The magazine is seeking nominations for any Kansas town that has a population of fewer than 5,000 people.
The deadline to nominate a community is March 14. People can do so by mailing a nomination to the publication at 1020 S. Kansas Ave. St. 200, Topeka KS 66612. I suppose you also could hire a Pony Express driver to take one directly to the office too. For those of you living in a different century, however, you can also just send it via email at email@example.com or fill out a submission form at travelks.com. My kids are now making fun of me for implying that email and websites are cutting-edge technology. Fear not, you can also submit via Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #BestSmallTownKS.
Lecompton is not the only Douglas County community eligible for the award. Baldwin City, at about 4,500 people, meets the 5,000 and under population cut off. Eudora, at about 6,300, does not. (As anyone who has spent time in both Eudora and Baldwin City can attest, the difference in the big city hustle and bustle between the two towns is stark.)
I call attention to Lecompton, however, because that community seems to be going all out to win the contest. Community members have printed up color brochures that they are handing out to people urging them to nominate Lecompton, and they even have created a website to promote the effort. Among the tag lines on that website: “Two museums, two eateries, zero stoplights.”
After the nomination period ends on March 14, a group of finalists will be selected, readers will vote through May 31, and winners will be named in the winter 2016 edition of the magazine.
SLT project would create major changes for west Lawrence traffic; city auditor urges more protection of certain City Hall files
I already have enough arguments with my GPS when I’m in west Lawrence. But if the Kansas Department of Transportation expands the western leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway to four lanes, I may have even more.
KDOT leaders will be in Lawrence on Tuesday to brief city officials on several alternatives they’re studying to expand the western portion of the SLT to four lanes. The project — if it ever receives funding — would involve several major changes that would take a bit of getting used to for motorists. Here are some examples:
— There is currently an interchange on the Kansas Turnpike that is commonly referred to as the Lecompton interchange. But under one plan being considered, there would be an entirely new interchange that would serve Lecompton. The proposal calls for a new interchange to be built about 2 miles west of the existing Lecompton interchange. The new interchange would allow you to access Lecompton Road — also known as County Route 1029 — the Farmer’s Turnpike — also known as County Route 438 — and the Kansas Turnpike — also known as Interstate 70. (There are more aliases in that area than at a prison yard barbecue.) But motorists would not be able to use the new interchange to access the South Lawrence Trafficway.
If you want to exit the Kansas Turnpike and directly access the SLT, you would need to do that at the existing interchange, which would need to quit being called the Lecompton interchange. That existing interchange would be rebuilt in a manner so motorists could no longer access Lecompton Road or the Farmer’s Turnpike.
If you are having a hard time following this, don’t feel bad. I’ve already thrown three GPS units against the wall just trying to figure out how to write it. But here’s one way to picture it: If you are coming from Lecompton and want to get on the SLT to go shopping in south Lawrence, your most direct route will involve getting on the Kansas Turnpike, driving two miles to the redesigned SLT interchange and paying your fare of a quarter or so. (I don’t have information on what the rate will be. I’m assuming it is in that range based on current fares.) Motorists who don’t want to pay the fare would have a couple of other options. They could stay on County Route 1029 until it intersects with U.S. Highway 40 west of Lawrence, and then take Highway 40 to the SLT. Or, they could take the Farmer's Turnpike until it intersects with Queens Road — also known as E 1000 Road — and use Queens to connect with Sixth Street and then take Sixth Street to the SLT.
— There is also an interchange on the current South Lawrence Trafficway known as the Clinton Parkway interchange. Under one scenario, it would be eliminated. That may cause you a bit of a problem — or at least a really big tow truck bill — if you try to tow your boat to nearby Clinton Lake via the SLT. Currently, the Clinton Parkway interchange serves as a gateway to Clinton Lake State Park.
KDOT engineers, however, are proposing a new access road be built from Clinton Parkway to the Bob Billings Parkway/SLT interchange that currently is under construction. Lake visitors then could exit off the SLT at Bob Billings Parkway and take the access road over to the Clinton Lake entrance. The new access road would be on the west side of the SLT. Motorists on Clinton Parkway also would continue to be able to get to the lake just as they do today.
• Getting to the city’s YSI sports complex near Wakarusa Drive and the SLT also would be different under the proposed plans. Engineers are hoping it will be significantly safer. Plans call for either an overpass or an underpass that would allow motorists on Wakarusa to access the ball fields without having to cross SLT traffic, which is required today.
Motorists who want to exit the SLT and go to the sports complex would do so at a new interchange proposed for a site about a mile east of the current at-grade intersection of Wakarusa and the SLT. A new frontage road would be built that would take motorists to the sports complex and to Wakarusa Drive.
• An existing at-grade intersection where Kasold Drive and the SLT intersect would be eliminated. Engineers say the at-grade crossing is a traffic hazard, and there are not enough motorists using the intersection to warrant building a full interchange.
KDOT officials will brief city and county commissioners on the proposed SLT options at a 4 p.m. study session on Tuesday at City Hall.
KDOT will continue to gather input from various stakeholders and then will announce its recommendations for the project in mid-to-late October.
When work may begin to convert the SLT into a four-lane road, however, is anybody’s guess. KDOT is spending money to create this concept study, but it would take tens of millions of dollars to actually build the project. That will involve winning funding from the Kansas Legislature in the future. No word on when that may happen, but KDOT officials have said they are confident traffic volumes on the western portion of the SLT will dictate four lanes of traffic.
Work is underway to complete the long-stalled eastern portion of the SLT. When it opens in 2016, it will be a four-lane road.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Getting lost in west Lawrence is one thing. (The worst that generally happens is I get the F150 stuck somewhere near the No. 7 green of Alvamar.) Losing your identity is another matter altogether.
A new report by City Auditor Michael Eglinski suggests Lawrence City Hall could be doing a bit more to prevent identity theft through the use of city files.
Eglinski, at Tuesday’s meeting, will present an audit to city commissioners recommending that the city adopt a formal policy for protecting personally identifiable information in city files. The city has lots of personal data in its file cabinets and computer servers. There’s all the standard information about city employees, but there are also files with lots of information about city utility customers, folks who file a police report, or people who have a case in Municipal Court.
Eglinski’s audit found Lawrence City Hall doesn’t have a formal plan for how to deal with an incident that involves the loss of personal data. Eglinski’s audit recommends the city begin working on such a plan, and begin directing the city’s Information Technology Department to “establish a framework for safeguarding personally identifiable information.” Part of that plan should include a strategy for how long the city should keep certain types of records before destroying them.
Eglinski’s report noted there are multiple instances where cities have had bad things happen to personal data in their files. A couple of examples: An employee of the Seattle Municipal Court stole numerous credit card numbers from people in the court’s computer system; Springfield, Mo., lost personal data on more than 2,000 people after a hacker broke into the city’s website.
Eglinski, though, did find that city employees generally understand the importance of protecting the personal data in the city’s files. In a written response to the audit, Interim City Manager Diane Stoddard said she sees the value in creating a more robust system to protect personal data. She said the city’s currently in the process of purchasing and insurance policy that will protect the city financially from a data breech. She said that insurance policy will allow the city to access some information technology security expertise. She said the city also in the process of developing a records retention plan.
Lecompton and Downtown Lawrence’s Christmas parade both garner national media attention; Lawrence ranks low in new per capita income report, while Manhattan soars
News and notes from around town:
• Forget the fiscal cliff, forget the Middle East conflict, heck, even forget Black Friday (I wish I could). The national media finally has found a worthy place to sink its teeth into: Douglas County.
Lawrence and Douglas County have received a pair of high-profile articles from the national media in recent days.
At the top of the list is little Lecompton and its tireless top-hat-clad promoter. If you have ever been to an event in Lecompton, chances are you either met or at least saw Paul Bahnmaier, president of the Lecompton Historical Society. Well, now so too has The New York Times.
The Times last week ran an article on Lecompton and Bahnmaier’s efforts to get the town of about 600 people national recognition as Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln” hits the big screen.
The movie is based on the book “Team of Rivals,” which mentions Lecompton and the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution that set in motion a series of political events that would culminate with Lincoln’s election.
Bahnmaier has been contacting media outlets throughout the state and region, urging them to take a look at Lecompton’s history.
As he told The Times, Lecompton should not play second fiddle to more well-known Civil War sites such as Fort Sumter, Gettysburg or Appomattox.
“None of those places would be important had the events not occurred here in Lecompton,” Bahnmaier told The Times.
The article is a good primer on Lecompton’s importance in the broader picture of the Civil War and Lincoln’s rise to power. But even more than that, it is just nice recognition for a man who has devoted himself to ensuring Lecompton’s important role in national history is not forgotten.
By the sound of things, Bahnmaier has gotten fairly excited about the surge in national interest in Lecompton. The Times’ article revealed that Bahnmaier routinely dines on a turkey sandwich at Kroeger’s Country Meats in Lecompton. But on a recent afternoon, “he was so excited about the possibility of national coverage of the town’s history that he allowed himself a quarter-pound cheeseburger.”
Now, that’s pretty excited.
The second recent article has organizers of Lawrence’s Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade excited. The parade will make its way down Massachusetts Street for the 20th time at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
The folks at USA Today named the parade as one of “10 Great Places to Put a Spin on the Christmas Spirit.” The article promotes the parade as one of the few places where you can still get that old-fashioned Christmas feel.
Lawrence, however, has some interesting competition. One is The Inn at Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The hotel is Christmas themed all year round. It features a singing Santa and a nearby gift shop that has “tens of thousands” of holiday accessories.
That sounds like pure Hell. It may be the only hotel in the country where Norman Bates visiting your shower may improve your stay.
Then there is something called Dickens on the Strand in Galveston, Texas. It involves people dressed up in the Victorian clothing of Dickens’ era. It also includes something called “bed races.”
No thank you. My wife had me train for one of those once. It involved me on a roll-away cot, my basement stairs and her giving me a big push.
I knew there was a reason I never liked Dickens.
• There is a new report out that probably won’t cause Lawrence to garner any national headlines. The Bureau of Economic Analysis has released its estimates for 2011 per capita income in each of the country’s 366 metro areas.
Lawrence isn’t likely to land on any “best of” lists in this category. The Lawrence metro area — which is all of Douglas County — has a per capita income of $33,379, which ranks it 271 out of the 366 metro areas. There is good news though. Lawrence’s per capita income grew in 2011, which was not the case in 2010. In fact, for the first time since 2007, every metro area in the country saw an increase in per capita income. Lawrence’s per capita income grew by 3.5 percent for the year. Nationally, however, the average metro area saw its per capita income grow by 4.3 percent. If those are the Joneses up ahead, we’re not keeping up.
I’ll tell you a community that is, though: Manhattan. Our friends in the K-State capital now have an average per capita income of $43,593. That’s right, folks in Manhattan have about $10,000 more in per capita income than folks in Lawrence. (This is normally where I would make some sort of math-related joke involving Wildcats, but it appears they understand math better than we do.) Manhattan’s per capita income growth rate was 6.4 percent in 2011, and the city now has the 55th highest per capita income of any metro area in the country.
And you thought the beating we took on the football field was bad.
Lawrence leaders long have pointed to the city’s role as a university community as a drag on per capita income. There are certainly many university communities that suffer from low per capita incomes as the result of students who drag down the average. But anymore, it seems there are just as many university communities that have diversified their economies and have negated the downward income pressure create by low-earning students.
Here’s a look at several communities. Some are university towns, while others are not. I mainly picked regional communities and others I thought you would be interested in:
— Lawrence: $33,379; 3.5 percent growth — Ames, Iowa: $37,429; 6.1 percent growth — Austin, Texas: $40,455; 3.9 percent growth — Boulder, Colo.: $51,893; 3.7 percent growth — Columbia, Mo.: $37,350; 4.1 percent growth — Iowa City, Iowa: $41,277; 6.1 percent growth — Jefferson City, Mo.: $35,453; 3.2 percent growth — Joplin, Mo.: $31,408; 3.9 percent growth — Kansas City Mo./Kan.: $43,062; 3.9 percent growth — Lincoln, Neb.: $39,018; 4.8 percent — Lubbock, Texas: $34.573; 1.9 percent growth — Manhattan: $43,593; 6.4 percent growth — Oklahoma City, Okla.: $40,002; 5.9 percent growth — Omaha, Neb.: $44,470; 4.4 percent growth — St. Joseph, Mo.: $34,189; 4.8 percent growth — Springfield, Mo.: $33,302; 4.1 percent growth — Topeka: $37,765; 5.2 percent growth — Tulsa, Okla.: $42,236; 6.8 percent growth — Waco, Texas: $33,943; 2.7 percent growth — Wichita: $38,568; 4.4 percent growth