WICHITA — Almost since it opened in September 2012, Doo-Dah Diner has been Wichita’s “it” restaurant.
On Sunday, all 92 seats in the restaurant’s small space at the northeast corner of Kellogg and Market were filled within 12 minutes of its 8 a.m. opening.
Now, the business is going to more than double in size, but it’s not for more seats.
Owners Timirie and Patrick Shibley are adding 3,000 square feet to their existing 2,000 square feet for more retail, a second kitchen and office space.
“Right now the drink station and I share an office,” Timirie Shibley says.
Patrick Shibley is Doo-Dah’s chef.
“It’s just going to give Patrick more creative freedom,” Timirie Shibley says of the additional space.
The restaurant will continue to be open 7 a.m.to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the weekends. With the expansion, which should be complete late this summer, the new retail side will be open until 6 p.m. for customers to buy to-go meals.
“Everybody has begged us to be open for dinner,” Timirie Shibley says. “That’s our version of being open for dinner.”
She says it will allow her husband to expand his bread baking as well.
“Our kitchen is just so maxed out back there,” Timirie Shibley says of the current space.
The new retail area will have bottles of Doo-Dah’s pancake syrup, green chili sauce and caramel sauce along with its biscuit and pancake mixes.
The restaurant currently sells lots of T-shirts but hasn’t been able to expand into such things as hoodies due to space.
“People were asking for hoodies all winter long,” Timirie Shibley says.
The new retail area, which also will have other Kansas items, will be about the size of the current dining room.
Shibley says, though, “Food will always be our focus.”
A few things will be reconfigured in the existing dining space with the expansion. The current entrance will be closed, and the new entrance will be just to the east. Diners will enter through the retail area.
“Picture like a Cracker Barrel,” Timirie Shibley says.
There will be an entryway cut into the south end of the restaurant where seating currently is.
A round corner booth will go where the cashier stand is now.
“Patrick’s calling it his chef’s table,” his wife says.
The Shibleys did not want to add more seating.
“We have the energy over there,” Timirie Shibley says of the dining room, which can sometimes be a little tight to navigate.
“Everybody can hear Patrick calling tickets on the weekend.”
It’s an atmosphere that works, Timirie Shibley says.
“Everybody said we’d never make it at this location,” she says. “I take pride in reviving what I consider to be a dead corner and reviving downtown. We’ve just made our mark here.”
Several restaurants previously failed at the spot.
“I think the location is perfect,” Timirie Shibley says.
She says it’s a central part of the city that’s easy to get to from Kellogg.
Before they opened, Shibley says she told concerned friends the restaurant wouldn’t be a typical diner.
“The only reason we’re a diner is it sounded better with Doo-Dah.”
She says “the price was just right” for what she charitably calls their shoestring budget.
“It was really more like used dental floss.”
Other than tables, chairs and salt and pepper that were already in the space, Shibley says they had nothing – not even coffee mugs.
They had customers bring in their favorite mugs or ones to promote their businesses.
“It ended up being …brilliant marketing,” she says. “To this day, I’ve never bought a coffee cup.”
There have been some issues with the building, which Shibley says was built in 1969 as a RadioShack. She says some HVAC problems have been worked out in time for the heat of the summer.
“Our system rocks.”
Shibley says she and her husband have “been enticed to go east,” but they won’t leave their space because it works so well.
“I can’t take credit for what the magic is,” she says. “We have the most awesome customers.”
Shibley also credits her staff and says she appreciates nearby hotels recommending Doo-Dah to guests.
She’s still not enticed to have more seats, though.
“I would rather be a wanted commodity than figure out ways to fill empty seats.”