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.
40-year-old business on 23rd Street changes hands, focus; Lawrence jobs up slightly in March, thanks mainly to the government
The main thing I know about vacuum cleaners is they make a lot of noise when I’m trying to watch a ballgame on TV (and that they sometimes get thrown at me when I make comments like that.) So, I may not be the best person to pass along vacuum cleaner news, but I have some nonetheless.
Steve Pinegar of Lawrence Vacuum and Sewing Center has sold the business after 40 years in Lawrence. The business has changed names but is still in its same location at 1449 W. 23rd Street. The company is now called Midwest Vacuums, and is part of a small chain based in Kansas City.
“Steve has done such a wonderful job with this business,” said Sarah Degondea, owner of Midwest Vacuums. “We were looking to open a store in Overland Park. The day we were ready to sign the lease, Steve called us and said he wanted to retire, and he didn’t want to sell the store to anybody but us.”
This is the third store for Midwest Vacuums, with the others in the Waldo district of Kansas City and in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. The store sells all types of vacuums, including uprights, canisters, central vacuums, and something called backpack vacuums. (That’s odd. My son’s backpack looks like it has a science project growing in it, but we just use a regular vacuum on it.) The store also sells steam mops, air purifiers, and a host of cleaning and vacuuming accessories.
A big part of the store’s business is vacuum cleaner repair. Degondea said the business repairs all brands of vacuum cleaners. She said often times customers who bring in vacuums for repairs eventually become the customers who buy new vacuums from her store. She said that’s how small vacuum shops have been able to stay in business despite big box retailers getting into the vacuum selling game.
“Our main customer is typically the customer who is tired of buying cheap vacuums and having them repaired,” Degondea said. “They sit down and do a little research and find out there are other options out there.”
The Lawrence store also continues to sell some sewing machines, but Degondea said she hasn’t made a decision about whether that will be a long-term part of the business. Her Kansas City stores do not sell sewing machines. She said Pinegar is working with the store part time to handle the sewing machine part of the business.
In other news and notes from around town:
• March brought some new jobs both for Kansas and Lawrence, although the new numbers show most of Lawrence’s job growth continues to come from government job growth rather than private sector gains.
Here’s a look at some job numbers as recently reported by the Kansas Department of Labor.
— Kansas: 4.0 percent in March, down from 4.5 percent in March 2015
— Lawrence: 3.4 percent in March, down from 3.9 percent in March 2015
— Topeka: 4.1 percent in March, down from 4.8 percent in March 2015
— Wichita: 4.5 percent in March, down from 5.0 percent in March 2015
— Kansas City: 3.8 percent in March, down from 4.3 percent in March 2015
— Manhattan: 3 percent in March, down from 3.6 percent in March 2015
Job totals (not seasonally adjusted)
— Kansas: 1.391 million, down 0.1 percent from March 2015
— Lawrence: 53,600, up 0.2 percent from March 2015
— Manhattan: 46,900, up 5.4 percent from March 2015
— Topeka: 109,700, down 0.2 percent from March 2015
— Wichita: 296,400, up 0.7 percent from March 2015
— Kansas City: 457,900, up 0.4 percent from March 2015
As you can see, Manhattan — Lawrence’s sister community in many ways — was the job engine for the state in March. Not only did it have the highest percentage growth by a lot, it added 2,400 jobs over the course of the year, which was more than any other metro area in the state. Lawrence added 100 jobs during that time period.
Goods producing jobs
Here’s a look at jobs that encompasses manufacturing and other industrial jobs that produce items.
— Kansas: 222,100, down 3.1 percent from March 2015
— Lawrence: 5,200, down 3.7 percent from March 2015
— Manhattan: 5,400, up 1.9 percent from March 2015
— Topeka: 12,700, down 0.8 percent from March 2015
— Wichita: 67,300, down 1.3 percent from March 2015
— Kansas City: 49,200, down 1 percent from March 2015
Service producing jobs
These are jobs in areas such as finance, leisure and hospitality, business services, trade and technical jobs, and other jobs that primarily provide a service rather than produce a good. These numbers also include government jobs, and I’ll provide more details on those in a moment.
— Kansas: 1.169 million, up 0.5 percent from March 2015
— Lawrence: 48,400, up 0.6 percent from March 2015
— Manhattan: 41,500, up 5.9 percent from March 2015
— Topeka: 97,000, down 0.1 percent from March 2015
— Wichita: 229,100, up 1.4 percent from March 2015
— Kansas City: 408,700, up 0.5 percent from March 2015
Remember that government jobs do include university jobs, so it is no surprise to see Lawrence and Manhattan have lots of them. But it is not clear what has caused the relatively large increase in the government jobs total over the last year.
— Kansas: 263,900, unchanged from March 2015
— Lawrence: 18,000, up 4.7 percent over March 2015
— Manhattan: 17,300, up 10.9 percent over March 2015
— Topeka: 27,200, unchanged from March 2015
— Wichita: 41,600, down 1 percent from March 2015
— Kansas City: 57,300, down 0.3 percent from March 2015
The state’s two largest university communities were the only metro areas to see government job growth in the last 12 months. Lawrence is glad for it too. Only two major categories in Lawrence showed job growth over the last 12 months: Government, and leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurant, hotel, bar employees and other such jobs. The leisure category grew by 100 jobs or 1.5 percent. All other categories saw job losses for the month. The largest was the professional and business services category, which includes a host of managerial and administrative jobs in the private sector. That category lost 400 jobs or 7.3 percent for the 12-month period. That was the largest percentage loss in that category for any metro area in the state.