UPDATED – It’s a reluctant Nathan Smith who shares ’Til We Meet Again’s latest news.
“I don’t want to tell you the news,” Smith says.
He and business partner Traci Smith-Cone have closed their store at Towne West Square, though they still have three stores elsewhere and plan to add more to sell custom caskets, urns and memorials.
“We are looking to continue to grow and all of that stuff, it’s just the Wichita market … everything slowed down, especially after Christmas,” Smith says.
“The Wichita store, like, just fell off the face of the planet. So we had to make some decisions pretty quick.”
Smith says he and Smith-Cone are now trying to determine if Towne West was the issue or if it’s Wichita in general.
“The traffic’s just not there in that mall,” Smith says. “The mall’s lost a lot of people, and they’re continuing to lose more people.”
Mis Gaston, general manager at Towne West, issued an e-mail statement in response:
“Towne West Square is one of the most popular regional family shopping centers, offering shoppers more than 95 popular names in retail. We are always looking for ways to enhance this mix and are enthusiastic about the opportunity to add another viable retailer to complement the center.”
Smith says his store used to see 75 to 100 people a day.
“Last month, we were lucky to get one or two people,” he says.
Smith says the ’Til We Meet Again store in Amarillo, Texas, “is doing amazing. The Phoenix store has exploded, and the New Orleans one is doing better than projections.”
“We definitely had the support with a lot of Wichita folks,” he says. Smith says funeral homes here had also started “to get on board more” with the store.
He adds, though, that “half of Wichita didn’t even know we existed.”
“I don’t know if it’s an east-side, west-side thing,” Smith says. “East-siders don’t come to the west side to shop.”
Smith says he and Smith-Cone wanted to be in a regional mall, but he says there have never been any suitable vacancies in Towne East Square so that left only Towne West.
“Don’t know if Wichita is the market we reopen in or Kansas City,” he says. “We’ve just got to figure it out.”