Baskin-Robbins to open Lawrence store this week; city sales tax collections start strong but City Hall projecting overall shortfall

photo by: Shutterstock

A Baskin-Robbins ice cream cone is shown in this 2023 Shutterstock photo.

A couple of news and notes from around town:

Given that the weather felt like 40-below zero not long ago, perhaps few people noticed that a new Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop planned for 23rd Street was taking a long time to open.

But I did, because I absolutely still ate ice cream even when it was that cold. (It actually was the best time to order a triple dip — you could eat one while you stored the others in your pants pockets.)

Now I can report there is no need to worry (well, my dry cleaner says otherwise) because an opening date has been set for the new Baskin-Robbins at 23rd Street and Ousdahl Road. The shop is set to open on Wednesday, Feb. 7.

You might recall that we reported in May that the company had struck a deal to move into the former Sprint wireless phone store at 1626 W. 23rd St., which is across the street from Perkins restaurant.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

The ice cream chain Baskin-Robbins plans to open in the former Sprint store location at 23rd and Ousdahl, which is pictured on Aug. 16, 2023.

Purav Patel is the franchisee for the Lawrence location, which is the only local location for the world’s largest ice cream shop chain. Baskin-Robbins has been in Lawrence before, including a location on 23rd Street, but it has been several years since the retailer operated in the city.

The Lawrence shop will feature a contemporary interior design, and also will include an enhanced menu that features the shop’s traditional hand-dipped ice creams but also a host of frozen treats. Those include ice cream bars, smoothie bars and something called “Polar Pizza.” That’s an 8-slice creation that features either a chocolate chip or a fudge brownie base, with your favorite ice cream spread from edge to edge and then your choice of sprinkles, sauces and other sweet toppings.

While the store is opening on Wednesday, those of you who are really big ice cream fans might want to mark a date in March. On March 23, the store will host a grand opening where it will be running a contest to give free ice cream for a year to about 15 guests.


While we are talking about pockets, it is worth noting that holiday shoppers in Lawrence emptied theirs at a faster rate than almost anywhere else in the state.

Lawrence posted a more than 6% increase in sales tax collections, according to the January report from the Kansas Department of Revenue. Due to normal delays in sales tax reporting, that January report largely represented sales made during the December holiday shopping season.

Lawrence’s increase of 6.2% was better than the statewide average of 5.3%. It also was better than several of the state’s largest retail markets. Here’s a look at totals for those markets:

• Lenexa: up 10.2%

• Kansas City: up 9.4%

• Olathe: up 8.4%

• Lawrence: up 6.2%

• Topeka: up 4.6%

• Shawnee: up 4.5%

• Salina: up 3.2%

• Sedgwick County: up 2.3%

• Overland Park: up 0.7%

The strong start to 2024 is welcome at Lawrence City Hall. Lawrence sales tax collections grew by 3.3% in 2023, which was below the 9% and 8% growth rates of the previous two years. The 2024 growth also was below what the city budgeted to collect.

As the year was winding down, I was reporting that it appeared the city was going to have a budget shortfall due to sales tax collections being less robust than expected. I estimated about a $3 million shortfall. I haven’t heard a final number for 2023, but clearly sales tax revenues have come in less than expected. City commissioners last month received a memo that projects the city’s 2024 general operating fund will have about a $4 million deficit for the year, due, in part, to “lower than projected sales tax revenue, resulting in a deficit (expenditures higher than revenues) for the 2024 budget.”

The city currently is operating without a permanent chief financial officer, as the hiring process is underway to find a replacement for the former CFO, who left Lawrence to take a job in the Kansas City metro. The Jan. 11 memo said staff is working on a plan to limit the impact the sales tax shortfall has on city operations.

“Staff will be developing strategies to address the deficit and will share with the City Commission in the future,” the memo from the city’s finance department said. “We do not currently anticipate significant service level impacts in 2024.”

The city made sales tax projections for the 2024 budget in the summer of 2023, based on what the city expected sales tax collections to be in 2023. When those collections came in less than expected in 2023, they had an impact on what the city reasonably could expect to collect in 2024.

Whether the city indeed ends up with a $4 million deficit — or whether it grows larger or smaller — will be an item to keep an eye on all year.


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