After brief reopening, Grinders decides to close Lawrence location; update on Shark’s Surf Shop and other pending closures

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

After being closed for about three months, Grinders reopened its Lawrence restaurant on New Hampshire Street in downtown Lawrence. But now it's closing for good.

News and notes from around downtown Lawrence:

• The pizza and Philly cheesesteak restaurant Grinders is in the process of closing its downtown Lawrence restaurant. Again. This time it appears to be for good.

Grinders is the creation of Kansas City hipster restaurateur Jeffrey Rumaner, who prefers to go simply by the name Stretch. You may remember that Grinders closed its Lawrence restaurant in July, but Stretch posted a video on social media saying it would reopen. In the video, though, he seemingly took a couple of jabs at the Lawrence scene. He called Lawrence “kind of a difficult town to deal with” and said “we have a small group of people who don’t want to even give us a chance.”

The restaurant did reopen in September, as we reported, but it didn’t last long. A general manager with the Lawrence Grinders location confirmed the restaurant, 733 New Hampshire St., is in the process of shutting down. Diners on Tuesday were met with a sign that said the dining room was closed and only carryout and delivery orders were being processed. But that wasn’t actually true, as a handful of diners were being served at the restaurant.

Acting General Manager Tyler Beckwith, though, said the restaurant was going through some remaining inventory and would close probably by the end of the week. Several employees already had been let go.

Beckwith, a longtime Lawrence restaurant manager who was brought in near the end of the venture, said business simply hadn’t improved enough to keep the Lawrence restaurant open.

From the beginning, the restaurant struggled with what niche it was trying to fill. At one point, it touted how it wanted to attract families, but the sign on the restaurant called itself Grinders LFK. As I’ve noted before, the ‘F’ isn’t short for family. Beckwith said sales had started to improve a bit in the last couple of months, but it was “too little, too late.”

“More or less, I think the town had already made up its mind,” Beckwith said.

I’ll keep an eye on whether another restaurant tries to make it in the New Hampshire Street space. For decades, it was home to La Familia Cafe, which closed to make way for the Grinders project at the end of 2016.

• It may be life-preserver time for one of Lawrence’s longtime retail stores: Shark’s Surf Shop. The store at 813 Massachusetts St. has been a longtime retailer in downtown. It has been popular with the fraternity and sorority sets, plus anybody else who wants to pretend Kansas is next to an ocean with some casual beach attire.

The store, though, has not been open for business for about a month and seemingly has provided no explanation about its closure. I certainly heard about a month ago that employees had been given notice of the store’s closing. But when I went to the store at that time, it was still open and an individual who identified himself as the owner said he didn’t have any announcements to make at the time.

Since then, the store has been closed, but it still seems to be stocked with inventory. So maybe there is a chance of a comeback. It probably will need to be quick, though. I got in touch with the owner of the building, who said she also was trying to determine the future of the store. She confirmed the ownership group has started the process of declaring the lease in default, and she expected that process to be completed in the next couple of weeks.

I didn’t easily find a history of Shark’s Surf Shop online, but my personal memory tells me the store has been in operation in downtown for more than 20 years.

• Anomaly, a downtown retailer that billed itself as a “pure gift shop,” has announced it is closing at the end of the year.

We reported on the business when it opened in April 2018. The store, 800 Massachusetts St., sought to make a go of it with a rotating inventory of all sorts of gifts items, ranging from coffee cups to puzzles to harmonicas.

The store announced its pending closure with a brief message on its Facebook page. The post said the storefront at the corner of Eighth and Massachusetts would be available for lease on Jan. 1.

• Look for an area bank to close its downtown branch near the end of the year as well. Bank Midwest will close its branch at 745 New Hampshire St. on Dec. 20, according to employees at the location.

Bank Midwest took over the space when it bought Peoples Bank in 2017. If you are confused about the location, it formerly shared space with the Sandbar Sub Shop and convenience store before that venture closed. More recently, it shared space with the French bakery E Barn Farm Bakery, which also has closed.

Bank Midwest will continue to operate branches in Lawrence with facilities on both Iowa Street and Sixth Street.

Bank Midwest’s pending downtown closure, though, will leave a fairly large building almost empty at the corner of Eighth and New Hampshire streets. But not quite. The Billiards Studio, a members-only billiards club, has expanded a bit at the site. The club, which we reported on in April, has taken over a second room in the building and has added a snooker table to go along with its three-cushion billiards table and traditional pool table, club representatives told me. The expansion was done, in part, to attract a larger group of members, officials said.


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