Monthly Archives: April 2008

From chicken to seniors

Native Wichitan Jack West’s quest to franchise his senior living facilities into rural America got a boost today with a write-up in the The Dallas Morning News.

West, who developed and sold the Wichita retirement community Georgetown Village in the 1980s, now lives in Dallas, where he moved “for a woman,” he told me recently in an interview. His wife lives there and wanted to stay there, he said.

West’s company, Country Place Senior Living, so far operates homes only in Kansas and much of his administrative staff remains in Wichita. But West, a former KFC franchise owner, opened his company to franchising last fall to expand the concept. So far he has awarded one contract to a couple who plan to build a home in Scandia, just west of Belleville.

He said he plans to award more franchise contracts in Texas and Missouri in the near future.

It’s a great business to be in. Despite the economy, senior housing development is on the rise with projections for growth and profit very favorable. Why? People will continue to age, and, with baby boomers beginning to swell the ranks, senior housing will continue to be in demand for years to come.

The Nestor

I’m not sure I’ve ever had lunch with a person for whom a dish is named while actually also eating said dish, but that’s what I did today at the Petroleum Club. I had “The Nestor,” a new take on tuna salad, while dining with Nestor Weigand of J.P. Weigand & Sons. Charming company and tasty tuna, too.

Nestor (the person, not the dish) waved to a number of prominent folks from across the room, but he actually rose to greet one VIP personally.

Oilman Carl Sebits was lunching a few tables over with his grandson and another dining companion, and Nestor said an enthusiastic hello. Privately, he pointed out that Sebits has never, ever been seen downtown without a tie on. Given that Sebits is almost 93 and has been coming downtown for decades and decades, it’s quite the gentlemanly accomplishment.

What’s the truth about oil prices?

Our McClatchy Washington bureau has some interesting reporting today jogging President Bush’s memory about his oil price options.

It’s difficult for a layman to know what – or who – to believe in an era where you hear drivers muttering political profanities to themselves at the gas pumps.

But really, does it matter? The reality of the situation is that disposable incomes are being eroded by gasoline prices and it’s a matter of time, especially with the President feeling powerless, before the impact will show up in shuttered retailers.

And that’s good for no one.

A night on the town, but where?

The timing seemed perfect. Myself and a gaggle of girls had planned a celebratory night on the town, and Yia Yia’s was advertising $5 martinis. Even Mother Nature was cooperating, and we looked forward to enjoying one of the first patio friendly nights of the year.

Except when we pulled up to the Bradley Fair restaurant, the entrance was roped off, and it quickly became evident the lovely white tablecloths on the patio weren’t there for us.

Yia Yia’s was closed for a private party.

How dare they! Don’t they know who we are, we scoffed, perhaps only partly in jest. (Our group included a restaurant critic, an editor, a business columnist and several well-known ladies about town.)

After many phone calls back and forth to the various parties who were on their way, the new plan was to meet at Chester’s Chophouse at the Waterfront, which was packed. (Love that patio fireplace, by the way.) It’s not clear if every Wednesday is this hopping or if Chester’s benefited from Yia Yia’s being closed.

A week or so later, Oeno, the Old Town wine bar, was closed for a private function. This time, we didn’t mind since we were the ones invited inside. It was kind of funny to watch people walk to the door, throw up their hands and leave. For a business owner, though, that has to be excruciating. Then again, who can turn down the guaranteed money from a private function? You just can’t win.

It’s one more reason, at least in my book, not to own a restaurant.

Success off the court

If you had asked me what players on the two Wichita State basketball teams I covered from 1985-87 would become successful businessmen, I’m not sure Tom Kosich would have been part of the conversation. He was an easy-going, life-of-the-party kind of guy (probably still is) who seemed to have no plan for his life, other than to enjoy it. And now? He’s president of Noodle Inc., a telecom service company with headquarters in the San Francisco area. He is also on the Board of Directors for the WSU Alumni Association and was in town last year to as part of the Distinguished Alumni Speaker Breakfast Series. On Tuesday, his company sent out a news release saying it had bought naming rights to the bullpen at Eck Stadium and would name it in honor of Shocker pitching coach Brent Kemnitz, a close friend of Kosich’s.

Not bad for a guy whose sole job the first year I covered the team (he was red-shirting because of a bad back) was to carry Gene Smithson’s dry erase board on road trips. He was a role player the next season, where his main job was trying to get new coach Eddie Fogler — a Dean Smith disciple — to lighten up a bit. The famous story that season was when Fogler was telling the team before it departed for a trip to Hawaii that “Honolulu in December is not that great.” Kosich’s reported response: “Coach, I’ve been to Terre Haute in February and it’s not that great either.”

Coffee Break

Did you see where a consultant told the Kansas Lottery that a casino in Mulvane would be more profitable than one in Wellington? Not sure what the lottery paid Christiansen Capital Advisors for that report, but I could’ve told them the same thing for a lot less.

And with that, your links for today:

  • In case you missed it, here’s the casino story.  It’s understandable why Wellington is fighting so hard for the casino, but I just don’t think that’s the right spot for it.
  • Boeing boss Jim McNerney says his company won’t throw any “needless sharp elbows” in the tanker dispute but said the company has a legitimate basis for its protest.
  • Analyst Loren Thompson, however, thinks Boeing’s aggressive stance could damage its long-standing relationship with the Air Force.
  • Oil prices continue to climb, as does demand, and one analyst has predicted gas at $7 a gallon. The New York Times looks into situation.

Will you marry me? I need health benefits

What does it say about our economy when nearly a quarter of workers in a new poll say they’ve stuck with their jobs (or taken a new one) just because they need the health benefits?

It probably says about the same thing as the 7 percent of adults who, in the past year, got married in order to have access to their spouse’s health care benefits, or so their spouse could have access to their benefits.

So it’s probably no surprise that the Kaiser Family Foundation poll, released today, finds that health care costs rank among Americans’ top personal economic problems, and that their struggles to deal with those costs have affected both their financial well-being and their family’s health care, the foundation says.


Wu’s got connections

It’s been painfully clear to me for a number of years now that the technological world is leaving me behind — and at an increasingly rapid rate.

Instead of excitedly making a new connection on LinkedIn or Facebook or whatever the latest site of the day is, I curse when I get those “I’d be honored if you would join my network” notes from friends and colleagues. It never seems to be as easy as a simple click to accept a new “friend.” And I can never remember my password (of which I now have approximately 5,000) or, for that matter, even my user name.

So imagine my shock (and, honestly, dismay) when I got an invitation today to join WuShock’s network on LinkedIn. WuShock? The WSU mascot? Are you kidding me?

A quick call to the university didn’t reveal much information. Wu apparently is at lunch. But his spokesman is supposed to call back soon, so check out Have You Heard? in tomorrow’s paper for news on just how connected Wu is.

Boom times in Manhattan, Junction City

Went to my niece’s wedding over the weekend. The service was in Junction City and the reception in Manhattan. I don’t think you can drive two miles in either of those cities without seeing new construction. A lot of it is residential, in part because of the anticipated return of more troops to Fort Riley (there also appears to be a lot of construction on base, too.) But there also is a lot of retail and commercial, including a mixed-use development planned near the Manhattan mall.

Some locals think developers may have overbuilt on the residential side. Earlier media reports said that returning base personnel found the new housing too expensive. Still, both towns are really hopping.

Grass is always greener?

The whole brain drain thing is an interesting topic, and keeping your best and brightest home certainly is worthy of all the discussion.

However, there is something to be said for leaving your comfort zone.

I speak from first-hand experience. I grew up in the KC area and went to college in Springfield, Mo. My first job? It was in New Jersey. My second was in Pittsburgh.

Talk about culture shock. But I’ll tell you something: I never learned more than I did after I was out on my own, away from my parents, all my friends and everything that was familiar.

Along the way, I came to the realization that the Midwest is where I belonged. That’s how I landed in Wichita, a place I’d never been before I flew here for an interview.

But guess what? I’ve been here 12 years now and don’t plan on leaving. No, we don’t have beaches or mountains. But we do have cheap houses, good pay, lots of jobs, neat restaurants, decent shopping, plenty of golf courses and on and on.

To me, getting people to consider Wichita is the hard part. Getting newcomers to stay once they’re here? That’s easy.

Dillons becomes more plastic friendly — and, no, I don’t mean your credit card

Dillions is now taking plastic bags and plastic shrink wrap for recycling in bins in the front of the stores. The plastic is made into plastic bricks, plastic lumber and more plastic bags. Americans use — and this is an amazing number — 100 billion plastic bags a year, and only 2 percent are recycled.

Warren to Manhattan: Not yet

Bill Warren’s lean and hungry eye for expansion has landed – at least for now – in Manhattan, as reported by the Manhattan Mercury.

The Wichita theater magnate isn’t quite as optimistic as Manhattan city officials in the Mercury story. Warren agreed Monday that he’s going to need specific parking and “deal” assistance from the city.

However, he renewed long-held misgivings about the city’s demographics, calling it “a little small for what we do.”

One big similarity with Oklahoma City, home of Warren’s latest expansion, should be noted, though: Underwhelming, mausoleum-like concrete boxes masquerading as movie theaters.

So there’s no doubt that the home of Willie Wildcat would welcome Warren.