WICHITA — Shortly before Twigs was destroyed by fire in late 2005, news broke that owner Iven Kelley was more than $200,000 behind in taxes.
“People thought I burnt down my own business because I owed so many taxes,” Kelley says. “It was somebody else out there that hasn’t been caught yet.”
The fire was ruled arson and has not been solved.
But Kelley’s tax problems have.
“All of our sales tax is zero,” says Kelley, who shared notices from the state showing satisfaction of judgment. “We have worked diligently to get everything done. . . . I’m feeling fabulous about that.”
Kelley blames a former accountant for his tax troubles.
“I didn’t know I was behind,” he says. “Several weeks before the fire, I panicked.”
The fire only added to his problems, he says.
“I was totally underinsured,” Kelley says. “I lost a half million dollars.”
He did get enough from insurance, though, to open a new store near Central and Woodlawn in 2006.
“The new store is doing good. It’s not doing fabulous. But nobody in retail business is doing well,” Kelley says. “It’s doing well enough that, yes indeed, we took care of our obligation with our taxes.”
He also bought a lot more insurance.
The arson investigation is ongoing.
Kelley is not a suspect, according to Stuart Bevis, captain of the fire investigation unit of the Wichita Fire Department.
“We have a suspect on the fire, and we actually hope to have charges filed on the case,” he says.
“Initially, we were pursuing federal charges, and that ended up not happening. It’s not going to be taken by the U.S. Attorney’s office.”
Bevis says it’s a technical issue related to which cases that office can take.
“In my opinion, it’s a great case,” Bevis says.
Eventually the case will go to the District Attorney’s office.
“We just have to pull the information together because the two different systems operated differently,” Bevis says.
So what does Kelley say to people who think he’s the one who started the fire?
“I would say that the joke’s on them. I did not do it.”
He’d also like to issue an invitation.
“I would invite . . . people who thought I did (it) to come back in the store and shop.”