Category Archives: Retail

When Don’s TV & Video closes, Wichita will lose a popular sign

donsignWICHITA — Lots of people who have been customers at Don’s TV & Video over the past almost seven decades have expressed disappointment since learning the store will close.

Some people who have never been in the store are sad to see it close, too, because they like the store’s ever-changing sign out front that has featured jokes, witticisms and truisms for passers-by.

The Eagle did a story about the sign and it’s “folksy, philosophical tone” in 1997.

Sayings have included, “Those who stare at the past have their backs turned to the future” and “Happiness is not a station you arrive at but a manner of traveling” and “Lottery – a tax on people who don’t understand statistics.”

At the time, co-owner Ron Zerbe said the sign was so popular that customers sometimes stopped in with suggestions for it.

Lately, co-owner Steve Eilert says they’ve not been great about changing it.

“We did start slacking off,” he says.

Currently, the sign says, “A hometown business proud to serve a great hometown since 1946,” and that’s probably what will remain until the business closes in the next month or two.

“It’s probably appropriate for the moment,” Eilert says.

He says he and Zerbe have been hearing nice comments from a lot of customers and friends, even from some who were customers years and years ago.

“It’s a little bit like being awake at your own funeral, probably,” Eilert says. “As they file past, you just say goodbye.”

He says it’s too bad it doesn’t work that way in real life.

“That would be nice, wouldn’t it?”

Mt. Vernon Automotive contents and property to be auctioned Wednesday

WICHITA — Mt. Vernon Automotive made it to its 50th anniversary this month, but that’s the end of the road for the repair shop.

“It’s a little bit sad for the whole family, but … it’s just really gotten so hard to run an independent automotive service because of the expensive diagnostic equipment and everything you have to buy nowadays,” says Charles Schmidt, whose father, Laurence, started the business.

“My dad started the business April 16 of 1964, and at that time he was at 3028 S. Hillside, and the name of the business was Hillside Auto Service.”

Then the shop moved to 2309 E. Mount Vernon in 1974 and became Mt. Vernon Auto Service. Around 1994, the business incorporated and became known by the name it is today. About the same time, Laurence Schmidt purchased the property across the street from his shop as a place to store more cars.

Both of those properties and the contents of the shop will be auctioned at the shop by McCurdy Auction at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

The main shop is a 1959 building with 3,550 square feet and five bays on a 12,600-square-foot lot. The storage property is on a 12,493-square-foot lot and has a 540-square-foot building, which was built in 1955 and at one time was a gas station.

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Invio Fine Furniture Consignment’s business has ‘gone crazy’ at its new space

WICHITA — Invio Fine Furniture Consignment’s move from North Rock Road to 535 N. Woodlawn next to Great Harvest Bread has been a great one, says Annie Johnsen, who owns the business with her husband, Eric.

“We moved here in October, and everything has just gone crazy,” she says. “Our business has probably tripled.”

On the far east side, the store was 3,600 square feet. Now Invio has 4,400 square feet. In addition to more space, Johnsen says, the business is so much better, items rotate in and out more quickly.

She says she thinks a lot of her business comes from people either downsizing or combining households. When customers combine households, she says, that means they have to try to match their furniture. So she says Invio is now carrying fabrics to help people redo furniture that they want to keep.

The store also is now doing color consultations and is helping with some design work.

Johnsen says she’s hired more employees – there used to be two and now there are five – and may need to add one more.

Artist Christine Tasheff, who does a lot of furniture painting, is now working in the front of the store doing portraits, which Johnsen says is an added bonus.

“It’s kind of fun to see her in action up there.”

Don’s TV & Video going out of business

WICHITA — Another chapter in Wichita business is coming to a close.

Don’s TV & Video, which the late Don Shaw opened as Don’s Radio after World War II, is going out of business.

“It isn’t profitable anymore,” says co-owner Steve Eilert. “Hasn’t been for a while.”

Don’s TV & Video owners Ron Zerbe (from left) and Steve Eilert with his wife, Sandy, and longtime employee Ron Landwehr.

Don’s TV & Video owners Ron Zerbe (from left) and Steve Eilert with his wife, Sandy, and longtime employee Ron Landwehr.

Eilert is partners with Ron Zerbe. The two used to work for Shaw, who started the business after getting out of the Navy and at one point changed the name to Don’s Radio & Television.

“He’s quite a guy,” Eilert says.

Originally, the store was located at First Street and where the Canal Route is now. Then it moved to its current site at the northeast corner of Second and Hydraulic. Eilert and Zerbe bought it in 1979.

“I think anybody who earns a living doing one thing for 50 years can expect that you might see the birth, life and death of industry, you know?” Eilert says.

He says the business has changed “tremendously” through the years. Still, he can sum up what’s changed in one word:

“Everything.”

It used to be the store’s employees would make $5 service calls, sell a few tubes or maybe clean a tuner “then come back and do it again a year later.”

“You got to know your customers pretty well,” Eilert says. “An independent shop didn’t need but a thousand or 2,000 customers to make a good living.”

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Firehouse Subs is first tenant at new strip center at NewMarket Square

WICHITA — Slawson Cos. is preparing to start building a strip center in front of the SuperTarget at NewMarket Square later this month and has landed its first tenant for it: Firehouse Subs.

“We acquired from Target an outparcel basically in front of their NewMarket Square store that’ll be just north of the Intrust Bank … branch bank,” says Slawson’s Jerry Jones.

Firehouse Subs will be in 2,000 square feet on the north end of the 10,000-square-foot center.

Jones says two other potential deals for the center are in advance stages of negotiation. If they happen, that would leave 2,800 square feet to lease to a tenant or 1,400 square feet each for two tenants.

Firehouse Subs franchisees Dana and Troy Todd would like to do five of the restaurants in the greater Wichita area. Franchisees Megan and Andrew Reece opened Wichita’s first Firehouse late last year at Eastgate Plaza at Kellogg and Rock Road.

Dana Todd says NewMarket Square is a great place to open Firehouse.

“It’s a well-established area, and it seems to be continuing to grow.”

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Longtime shop L.J. Pracht Co. slated to close; executor hopes to keep it open

WICHITA — Wichita may be losing another one of its oldest retail shops.

Perhaps not unexpectedly, L.J. Pracht Co., a one-of-a-kind wrapping store that also sells jewelry making supplies at 1500 E. Douglas, is slated to close on April 25.

Owner Jim Pracht III died more than two years ago.

However, Willi Richert, executor of Pracht’s estate, isn’t willing to make the store’s closure final yet.

“What is it Mark Twain said? His passing was greatly exaggerated,” Richert says.

“Hopefully, we’ve got a couple of different people who are showing interest, and maybe we can continue. That’s been my hope from the start.”

Pracht’s grandfather opened the store 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 says.

“It’s a unique store that reflects a different time, but it’s still a necessary product that they sell.”

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Lululemon Athletica trunk show could eventually lead to showroom and storefront

WICHITA — A trunk show today, a storefront tomorrow?

It won’t happen that quickly, but the fact that Lululemon Athletica is having another trunk show here today gives hope that Wichita one day will have one of the stores here.

“If the trunk shows do well, they think about putting in a showroom in Wichita,” says Nickki Head, whose east-side Firefly Yoga Studio is hosting the show.

“That’s how it works,” she says.

After a few trunk shows, Head says, “Then the next step is a showroom.”

That’s a small retail space that’s open Thursday through Saturday only.

If that’s successful after a year or two, then there’s a chance for a permanent storefront.

“There’s, like, this huge process,” Head says.

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Wichita’s Whole Foods Market may not have to be called Bread & Circus

breadncircusWICHITA — According to a poll so informal it probably shouldn’t be called a poll, it looks like the Bread & Circus name that Wichita’s new Whole Foods Market will go by here isn’t exactly being embraced.

Or, to be blunt, no one seems to like it – or actually call the store by that name.

There’s a glimmer of hope, though, for those who prefer the Whole Foods name.

The reason the Austin-based chain chose Bread & Circus, which was the name of some stores the company bought in 1992, is Wichita’s local Whole Foods Association already had the name here.

GreenAcres Market owner Barb Hoffmann purchased the Whole Foods Association stores in January, and it appears she’s now considering letting the larger Whole Foods chain have the name.

“I’m not able to say anything right now,” Hoffmann says.

She says she’ll likely be able to talk in a couple of weeks.

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Locker Room by Lids to open at Towne East

WICHITA — Locker Room by Lids is coming to Towne East Square this spring on the lower level of the mall near JCPenney.

The store sells sports apparel and accessories.

Also this spring at Towne East, teen retailer Aeropostale is relocating to the upper level near Old Navy in the JCPenney wing.

“We’re excited to welcome Locker Room by Lids to Towne East Square soon,” Towne East general manager Jeffrey Runnels said in a release. “The addition of this store and renovations to existing retailers complements our already great mix of retail and dining options, providing more options for Wichita shoppers.”

Missing Link traveling store featuring jewelry, chain mail to debut

link1WICHITA — Jewelry designer Melissa Shockley is joining the truck trend.

Shockley has been selling jewelry and chain mail since 1998. Last summer, she saw Holly Daley’s Ginger Lily Boutique  – a fashion truck – at an event.

“Ginger Lily is what inspired me,” she says of getting a 27-foot RV to haul and show her creations.

“It would be nice to just pull up and park.”

Shockley calls her business the Missing Link because she uses jump rings, which are small metal circles, to create metal jewelry and shirts. Some of what she makes is similar to what might be found at a Renaissance festival.

She did a trial run of the new vehicle, but that was before it was done. It’s now completely outfitted and will make its debut April 26 at a car show at Mel Hambelton Ford.

link2Shockley, who has a day job making glasses, says she’d love to have a storefront one day.

For now, she says, she’s looking forward to pulling up, opening a door and having an instant shop – with no unpacking.

“Exactly.”