Category Archives: Downtown

L.J. Pracht Co. closing sale starts Sept. 2

WICHITA — Willi Richert, executor of Jim Pracht III’s estate, said in April that he’d let us know the fate of the late businessman’s L.J. Pracht Co.

“I did promise I’d let you know good or bad, and unfortunately it’s bad,” he says.

The business, a one-of-a-kind wrapping store that also sells jewelry making supplies at 1500 E. Douglas, is closed and isn’t reopening except for a going-out-of-business sale.

“We did try,” Richert says of selling it.

“We had a couple of people interested in it, but it just fell through,” he says. “I would have liked to have seen it continue.”

Pracht’s grandfather opened the store, one of Wichita’s oldest, on Main Street in 1923.

“It’s been an integral part of the city for a lot of years – almost 100 – and you hate to see a business like that close down,” Richert said in April. “It’s a unique store that reflects a different time, but it’s still a necessary product that they sell.”

Through the years, Richert said the store had a huge inventory and served a multitude of customers.

“You name it, if it was associated with the jewelry business,” he said this spring.

The store also used to carry clock parts.

“Amazingly, they served pretty much regionally.”

If sales were slow, Richert said Jim Pracht’s father, Louie, would go to the local aircraft manufacturers to sell his jewelry tools, since they were often the same tools the manufacturers needed.

“They were good people,” Richert previously said of the Prachts.

The store’s sale, which will include supplies and fixtures, starts Sept. 2 and ends Sept. 12.

“That’ll be the end of it,” Richert says.

Though he hoped the store would stay open, Richert says he wants to “thank Wichita for supporting this family for three generations.”

U.S. Postal Service signs lease that should enable DCF to move more quickly

WICHITA — It was around this time last year that the state was considering leasing Wichita broker Jeff Greenberg’s 100,000-square-foot building near East 47th Street South and South Oliver.

The Department for Children and Families, which wants to leave the Finney State Office Building downtown where it currently is, seriously looked at Greenberg’s space. The deal didn’t happen, though.

Now, another deal related to that has been signed.

No one is commenting yet, but sources say the U.S. Postal Service has signed a deal for a good percentage of Greenberg’s building.

The postal serivce has a remote encoding center at 2601 S. Oliver, which is where DCF now wants to locate.

As Have You Heard? reported last month, the postal service is winding down those operations – its lease expires in September 2015 – but now it’s planning a call center for the space.

The call center, which will be one of four the postal service has nationally, will answer customers’ inquiries via phone and e-mail.

The remote encoding center has been at the South Oliver space for two decades. At one time there were more than 1,000 employees there. Now, there are 251 career employees left, meaning employees who are guaranteed jobs.

It looks like the call center is what the postal service has planned for Greenberg’s space. It also appears that the postal service could move within the next few months, which would enable DCF to finalize the lease it wants and move in more quickly.

Look for more information on the deal in the coming weeks.

Ambassador Hotel finalizes deal with Autograph Collection by Marriott

WICHITA — The Ambassador Hotel has finalized a deal to become part of the growing Autograph Collection by Marriott.

Have You Heard? first reported the deal was a possibility in September.

“It’s been a big deal,” says Paul Coury, chairman of Tulsa-based Coury Group.

His Ambassador hotels in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Kansas City are part of the deal as well.

Coury says Marriott officials are “excited about the fact that they could bring four hotels into their brand.”

“It’s going to have a great impact on the people in the corporate world who want to stay at hotels that get reward points.”

Coury says the ramifications are huge for his hotels as well.

“Well, obviously, I did it because I think it’s going to have a big impact.”

Coury says the Autograph Collection is what’s known as a soft brand. The Ambassador will keep its own identity and add Autograph Collection by Marriott to its name.

He says Marriott has high standards and that the Ambassador already meets them.

“We basically had everything they were looking for.”

Not everyone is excited for the new brand, though.

“There were some objections,” Coury says.

He says there’s a process Marriott goes through when deciding if a hotel fits its brand. Part of that is getting the opinions of other Marriott franchisees in the area. None of them could be reached for comment for this story.

In October, the Tulsa Ambassador will be the first of Coury’s hotels to be rebranded. The Wichita Ambassador will follow in the third week of October.

Guests can’t start booking through Marriott until then.

“In the meantime, everything’s getting in place to make that conversion within the system and the training,” Coury says.

Other than that, Coury says he doesn’t have to do anything.

“Nothing,” he says. “That’s what’s beautiful.”

You don’t say

“I sat very still that day.”

Wichita Downtown Development Corp. president Jeff Fluhr on the first time he got a straight-razor shave at DeVille’s Barbershop & Shaving Parlor at Eaton Place

RSA Marketing Services to move to Commerce arts district

UPDATED — RSA Marketing Services is moving to a new downtown home, and CEO Bruce Rowley says there’s something special about it.

“Unbelievably, it is actually the very first development to face the arena – to directly face the front of the arena,” he says of Intrust Bank Arena. It’s “the very first building that you encounter when you pull into the Commerce arts district.”

Mike Snyder, left, and Bruce Rowley of RSA Marketing Services at the site of the agency's future home in the Commerce arts district.

Mike Snyder, left, and Bruce Rowley of RSA Marketing Services at the site of the agency’s future home in the Commerce arts district.

The 7,000-square-foot space is at the southeast corner of Waterman and Commerce.

“We want to be a part of pushing that growth down here and that development down here as it continues to unfold,” Rowley says. “I love that we could do our part to help spur that along.”

Don’t believe that it’s the first new development facing the arena?

“Go drive it,” Rowley says.

Big Rick’s, a barbecue sauce manufacturer, is in the building now and will remain in 2,000 square feet.

RSA will take more than 4,000 square feet.

“And then we’re carving out 900 square feet on the northwest corner of the building,” Rowley says.

“We really felt like that is such a great, high-visible corner,” he says of that 900 square feet. “The best use is really not to put our conference room there or something.”

A retail outlet or some kind of food establishment “will contribute to the vibrancy of that area,” Rowley says.

Currently, RSA is in 3,000 square feet at 145 N. Hydraulic, which is part of the former Big Dog Motorcycles campus. The 4-year-old agency has been there for three years and has owned the building for two years.

“The main constraint there … remains parking,” Rowley says.

There are 16 to 20 spaces “depending on how well everyone parks.”

“We typically run out of room.”

RSA will keep its current space as a photography and video studio.

At the new building, RSA will do a joint venture with current owner Trans Pacific Properties, which is affiliated with Trans Pacific Oil, and will completely renovate the space.

“It is literally a brick-and-concrete box at the moment,” Rowley says. “It’s a blank canvas.”

The building has only one door and no windows.

“We’re going to change substantially the exterior view of it,” Rowley says.

RSA currently has 24 employees and likely will have 27 by the time the agency moves late this year.

“It’s a significant increase in the amount of people down there and the ability of retail and all kinds of other businesses to grow down there,” Rowley says. “We’re certainly not the driver of that, but we want to be a driver.”

RSA’s new building originally was a patio furniture warehouse.

“We’ve been working for three years now in this former taxi garage and biker barn, which are two things that this building has been in the past, and we really thought that defined a lot of who we are,” he says. “We’ve tried to be a very efficient, open, collaborative kind of environment.”

Rowley says the idea has been to not have “ostentatious, over-the-top trappings.”

“We kind of still feel like we’re maintaining the culture that we have while expanding and growing as we do it.”

DeBoer names his new apartments after neighboring WaterWalk development

WICHITA — The new apartments that Jack DeBoer is building on the west side of the river across from his WaterWalk development now have a name: WaterWalk Apartments.

It may seem like the obvious choice, but it wasn’t necessarily.

“We toyed with some other names,” DeBoer says. “We struggled with it.”

DeBoer says he doesn’t remember what the other names were but that it’s surprising how many conflicts there are with names.

“It’s amazing, you pick a name, and it sounds like a good idea.”

Then, he says, you might find that it’s already in use or has a connection somewhere else or a connotation that you don’t like.

“Vetting a name in business is not a simple task,” DeBoer says.

WaterWalk, in the end, made sense, he says.

“And frankly … I owned the name, and so I said, ‘Oh, OK.’ ”

Al’s Old & New Book Store to be first tenant at Block One retail center

booksWICHITA — The new retail center attached to the parking garage at Block One has its first tenant, and it may be an unexpected one.

Anita Siemer is going to move her Al’s Old & New Book Store from Delano, where it’s been for almost six decades, to the new downtown development.

Slawson Cos. is handling leasing at the 8,400-square-foot center. Slawson broker Jerry Jones says if he could create a list of what he wants at the center, he’d “put a book store right at the top of it.”

“We just feel really good about it,” he says.

So does Siemer, even though she never wanted to move.

The New Covenant United Methodist Church purchased Siemer’s space along with another space next door – at 1710 and 1712 W. Douglas – in order to expand. In April, Siemer expressed concerns about having to move due to cost.

“I can find cheap, crummy spaces in … parts of town that would be scary for after dark, and I can find expensive, nice places here in Delano and downtown, but you know, having to pay so much – like three times as much as I currently pay – I don’t think that’s really looking like it works for me right now,” she said at the time.

Now, she says Slawson Cos. has “gotten creative to make it so I could come into the space really in better shape than anything I found in Delano.”

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Viega to leave Epic Center for sixth floor of Bank of America Center

WICHITA — The Epic Center’s loss will be the Bank of America Center’s gain.

Viega, a plumbing and heating systems manufacturer, is leaving the Epic Center for 32,000 square feet at Phil Ruffin’s Bank of America Center at Douglas and Broadway early next year.

“That’s a great lease,” Ruffin says. “We’re very happy to get it.”

No one with Viega would comment about the move.

“They’re a fine company,” Ruffin says. “I like them very much. They’re a fast-growing company.”

Chris Ruffin, Phil Ruffin’s son, and Jon Cyphert of Ruffin Properties handled the deal with Scott Salome of NAI Martens.

“They did a great job,” Phil Ruffin says.

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Orpheum Office Building owners association sues Randy Johnston and Hubris Communications

WICHITA — Chris Owen and Randy Johnston purchased the fourth floor of the Orpheum Office Building for a steal last summer, but it’s been anything but a bargain since then.

“We saw this and thought it might be a deal, and it turned out to be a really good deal, or so we thought,” Owen says.

“They think they did their homework, but they didn’t,” says Ram Mofsowitz, president of the building’s owners association.

At issue is the way utilities, janitorial services and other common expenses are calculated. The owners association has sued Johnston and Hubris Communications, where Owen is founder and president.

“Hubris is not involved in any way,” Owen says. “That’s a fishing expedition, and they know it.”

Owen and Johnston purchased the floor for $3,000 at a sheriff’s auction. Owen says they expected to have some fees associated with owning the floor.

“We obviously have no problem with that.”

He says the association divides costs of such things as electricity among owners of the building’s seven floors even though he and Johnston now have a separate meter for their floor.

“This makes no sense,” Owen says.

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Sam Kuns to move his Air Capital Catering to Market Centre and open Caesars

WICHITA — The mezzanine at the Market Centre at First and Market is once again going to be home to a restaurant.

Air Capital Catering owner Sam Kuns is moving his business there and opening Caesars, a lunch spot.

“What I’m trying to do is preserve my catering business,” Kuns says.

He says he needs a certain volume for the business to be profitable, and he thinks using the space for events after lunch and in the evenings will give him what he needs.

Kuns isn’t going to run the restaurant or catering business on a day-to-day basis, though.

Robert “Big Dog” Bradford and Danny Ayala will run the business.

Kuns calls Bradford “a barbecue king” and “a unique character” and says Ayala has a 40-year background in the meat business.

While Bradford and Ayala run the restaurant and catering company, Kuns says he’ll focus on his Chicken Shack in Bronson.

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