Braum’s says Lawrence store currently isn’t in its 2024 plans, but there may be reason to hope otherwise

photo by: Shutterstock

Plans are underway for a Braum’s restaurant to locate in Lawrence.

There are backhoes and dump trucks busily at work near the intersection of Sixth Street and George Williams Way. There have been a lot of assumptions that the work is for a Braum’s restaurant and ice cream shop that we reported in May is coming to the area. (It makes sense to me because I do assume Braum’s will use a backhoe and dump truck to deliver my serving of ice cream.)

Well, Braum’s fans are kind of right, but also are likely to be disappointed to learn that the work is not a sign that a Braum’s opening is just around the corner.

The construction at the site is for a street that will be important for Braum’s — eventually. However, I got in touch with a Braum’s spokeswoman this week, and it appears the timeline for a Braum’s opening is not nearly as soon as some may have thought.

“We have acquired a location there, but there has been no further development,” Amanda Beuchaw, public relations director for Oklahoma City-based Braum’s told me via email. “Our planning and building schedule is already set for 2024, and Lawrence is not on it at this time.”

Those words are like someone took a blow torch to my double dip. If those words stand, that means construction on a Braum’s wouldn’t even start until 2025.

If for some reason you are not familiar with Braum’s, it is a regional restaurant chain best known for its hamburgers and its ice cream, which it produces itself from an Oklahoma dairy that it owns and operates. Until now, the chain hasn’t expanded this far north because it wants to ensure that its delivery drivers can leave the company’s Oklahoma dairy and return home in a single day. Beuchaw told me Braum’s has recently tweaked its mileage philosophy, and Lawrence now fits within the one-day radius that the company seeks.

So, that’s a piece of good news for local Braum’s fans. There are other pieces as well. Beuchaw noted that Braum’s already has acquired the site. The company is well past the stage of considering Lawrence as a future location, it appears. Another positive sign is that Braum’s has filed a site plan with the city. That means the company is spending money to design a store specifically for its site in Lawrence.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Construction crews on Oct. 18, 2023 work to build streets and other infrastructure for the Mercato retail development in northwest Lawrence.

Under city code, site plans are only good for 18 months before they expire, although getting one extension usually isn’t difficult. Nonetheless, it seems doubtful that Braum’s already would be doing site plan work for the site if it was years away from construction. So, perhaps the Lawrence location gets added to Braum’s 2024 work plan? I, of course, don’t know. (My Braum’s work plan consists of growing a third hand so I can carry more ice cream.)

In the meantime, the site plan filed with City Hall provides some good information about what’s in store for Lawrence once Braum’s does open. It suggests Lawrence is in line to get not only a Braum’s restaurant, but also a mini-grocery store. Braum’s has added a “fresh market” component to many of its stores. If you have ever been to the Braum’s location along Interstate 35 in Emporia — which currently is the closest Braum’s to Lawrence — you’ve seen a fresh market there.

The market has a heavy dose of dairy products, many of which come directly from Braum’s Oklahoma dairy. But the fresh market also carries some meat, produce, bread and some grocery items ranging from cereal to salad dressing.

The site plan doesn’t give specifics about the fresh market component, and it was a detail I wasn’t able to ascertain from the spokeswoman either. But, the site plan has a couple of indications that it may be in the works. First, the proposed Braum’s building is large. It is planned to be more than 6,100 feet. The other indication is that that the site plan shows a location in the parking lot for customers to return shopping carts.

The site plan also shows the restaurant will have an extensive drive-thru and a large amount of outdoor seating.

As for the work that is going on at the site currently, those construction crews are building the remaining portions of Mercato Drive. That work is happening a ways north of Sixth Street, but that’s not a sign that Braum’s is going to be that far north.

Instead, the Braum’s site is right along Sixth Street, at the northeast corner of its intersection with Entrada Drive.The map below shows you where Braum’s will be near Entrada Drive. Motorists traveling eastbound on Sixth Street will need to turn onto George Williams Way to get to the Braum’s site because you can’t turn left off of Sixth Street onto Entrada. But currently, you would have to drive all the way through the Rock Chalk Park development and circle back to the south to get to the site. That will change once Mercato Drive is completed to connect with George Williams Way. The dirt path you see on the aerial is basically where Mercato Drive will be constructed.

photo by: Google Maps

An aerial map shows the undeveloped Mercato retail area near Sixth and George Williams Way.

Getting Mercato Drive completed could be a game-changer for the entire development near Sixth and George Williams Way. If you remember, the land is already zoned for large amounts of retail and restaurant development, as the city approved the zoning years ago in hopes that businesses would want to be next to the Rock Chalk Park sports facilities.

The map below, which is from marketing materials for the development, shows how many lots could be ready for development once Mercato Drive is completed. It immediately would make the five-acre lot at the northwest corner of Sixth and Entrada much more attractive. That is a large lot that could accommodate a fairly large store.

photo by: Lane 4 commercial real estate

A marketing map shows available lots at the Mercato retail site in northwest Lawrence.

However, the really big lots would be on the north side of Mercato. The map shows a 14-acre lot that is “proposed” for a wholesale club. That is the spot that frequently is rumored to house Costco at some point. While that is an exciting piece of speculation — often fueled by Costco employees in Johnson County saying a store is soon coming to Lawrence — that rumor has literally been circulating in Lawrence for nearly a decade. It may come true at some point, but there have been no plans filed at City Hall to build a Costco on the site. Completing Mercato Drive, though, does move the site much closer to being development ready.

With a couple of other smaller, interior streets being constructed, there are about eight additional, small retail/restaurant lots that could be opened up for development between George Williams Way and Entrada Drive.

In that sense, the Braum’s development could be important beyond its ice cream value. It could be the project that jump-starts what could become one of Lawrence’s larger retail districts.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.