Category Archives: Towne West Square

’Til We Meet Again closes at Towne West Square; company still in business

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.”

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New Towne West CUP almost finalized; Towne East won’t pursue one ‘at this time’

WICHITA — It looks like Simon Property Group’s application for an amendment to the community unit plan for Towne West Square is all but finalized, and nothing is happening with the one for Towne East Square.

Simon’s applications were to hold outdoor events at both malls – that could be events such as special sales or carnivals – but neighbors near Towne East fought it.

Greenhouse sales are now scheduled at both malls for April and May, and a carnival is scheduled to start at Towne West on May 8.

Previous mall management said the amendment was approved at Towne West, but that’s not the case.

“From what we understand, we just needed to submit updated drawings, and we were good to go at Towne West,” says Mis Gaston, the mall’s new general manger. “They haven’t told us anything otherwise. So hopefully that gets us over the hump.”

Since the applications were filed, management has changed at both malls.

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You don’t say

“Put a sparkle in your smile with Grillz here at Towne West Jewelers.”

– A tweet from Towne West Square promoting the sparkly caps that can be worn over teeth

’Til We Meet Again opens in Amarillo, Texas

UPDATED — ’Til We Meet Again, the casket store at Towne West Square that’s turning into a national chain, is now in another new market with a new focus.

“This one officially makes number four,” Traci Smith-Cone says of a new store in Westgate Mall in Amarillo.

Smith-Cone, who started the concept with Nathan Smith in 2010, says that mall is the only one in a 125-mile radius, and it’s in a great spot.

“Amarillo is often referred to as the crossroads of the United States,” she says.

Until now, the chain’s concept has been to specialize in custom caskets and urns, but memorial products are an increased focus of the business.

“Grief isn’t just a one-time event,” Smith-Cone says. “It is ongoing.”

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Possible Towne East Square CUP amendment on hold

WICHITA – Simon Property Group’s application for an amendment to the community unit plan for Towne East Square continues to be deferred, but the adjustment has been approved for Towne West Square.

Simon’s applications were to hold outdoor events at both malls, but neighbors near Towne East are fighting it.

“We’ve got it in a holding pattern right now,” says area mall manager Michael Payton.

He says there are still some details to work out.

“I’m not going to say too much about that.”

Payton says the issue will be revisited, but he can’t say when.

Neighbors oppose Simon Property Group’s request for CUP amendment to allow outdoor events at malls

WICHITA – Simon Property Group has applied for an amendment to the community unit plans for Towne East Square and Towne West Square so it can hold outdoor events at both malls, but neighbors near Towne East are fighting it.

“They want to do a bunch of things in an outdoor forum, which we think means more traffic and more trash and more noise,” says Larry Duntz, president of the Rockwood Homes Association.

“We already have a significant problem with trash … blowing over on our property that they’ve been unwilling to do anything about.”

Area mall manager Michael Payton says what’s blowing is the issue blowing out of proportion.

“This isn’t really a big deal, really,” he says. “We’re going to have a meeting with them to address this.”

Payton won’t address what events the malls would have.

“We’re not necessarily filling in the blanks on that right now,” he says.

“They’re not being very forthright with telling us what exactly they want to do,” Duntz says. “Our entire board has agreed that what they’re talking about is not a good thing.”

Vice Mayor Pete Meitzner says most other retail developments already have approval for holding outdoor events, so he thinks it makes sense for Simon, too.

“They do a lot of good things … for the community,” he says. “It would level the field, so to speak.”

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Towne West Square Lane Bryant to close

WICHITA — Almost 20 years after opening in Towne West Square, Lane Bryant is closing.

The store’s last day in business is Feb. 23.

The national chain, which specializes in plus-size women’s clothing, has had plans to close the Towne West store since a Lane Bryant opened in NewMarket Square in 2011.

Missy Meyer, manager of the NewMarket store, says there are no plans to close or move the Towne East Square Lane Bryant.

‘Til We Meet again obtains license to sell Vatican caskets, urns, grave markers and memorial products

WICHITA — If a business person would like to do business with the Vatican, is it as easy as calling up and asking?

Almost. At least that’s how it seemed to go for Nathan Smith and Traci Smith-Cone of ’Til We Meet Again, the casket store at Towne West Square that’s turning into a national chain.

The day after Thanksgiving, Smith says he and Smith-Cone signed a deal with the Vatican for Vatican-licensed merchandise.

“We are the only source for retail for all Vatican caskets, urns and memorial products throughout the United States,” Smith says. “It’s been something we’ve been working on for quite some time.”

Another company used to have the exclusive license, he says.

“That company that was doing that fell on some hard times and bad management and are no longer in existence,” Smith says.

When he heard that, he says he called the Vatican to inquire about the license.

“Through a lot of negotiations and talks, we thought it brought a lot of value to have that license from the Vatican,” Smith says. “It’s going to be a pretty big license for us.”

The company is in the process of working with the Vatican and several manufacturers on developing lines for caskets, urns, grave markers, jewelry and keepsakes.

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Towne West Medical Plaza coming to Towne West Square for nontraditional use

Michael Payton (from left), Jeff Englert and Grant Glasgow are trying to market a new Towne West Medical Plaza for a nontraditional approach to filling the mall.

WICHITA — Area mall manager Michael Payton is using a new saying to describe Simon Property Group malls such as Towne East Square and Towne West Square.

“The malls are starting to become the ‘alls.’”

He means the malls offer more than retail and restaurant options these days.

“We’re starting to see more and more nontraditional users work their way into the mall environment.”

The latest foray into a nontraditional use will be the new Towne West Medical Plaza, a potentially 50,000-square-foot area that could be home to a variety of medical users.

“Basically kind of a one-stop shop for different medical needs,” says Jeff Englert of Grubb & Ellis/Martens Commercial Group.

Englert and colleague Grant Glasgow are marketing the property, which will be on the west side of the mall between Sears and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

“This is something they’ve tried in other markets,” Glasgow says of Simon.

“You have a built-in customer base within Towne West mall.”

Glasgow says the mall has 6 million visitors annually.

Payton says the medical location will be convenient for patients, who also could be shoppers.

“They can do some shopping. They can eat.”

Glasgow says to see why this idea makes sense, look at the number of medical providers in the southwest Wichita area.

“It is by far the fewest in Wichita,” he says.

Englert says that area has only 1 percent of all medical offices in the city.

“Obviously, there’s a clear void,” he says. “That’s another reason why we thought this would be a good use of space.”

In addition to being convenient for patients, Glasgow says a medical plaza at the mall makes sense for doctors and dentists, too.

“This allows medical users to cluster,” he says. “They like to all be together.”

On-site management is another plus, he says.

“There are benefits like 24-7 security.”

The area likely will develop in phases.

“It will not cut off through the rest of the mall,” Englert says of access to shopping through that entrance.

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‘Til We Meet Again further franchises and encounters its first stumbling block

WICHITA — Willow Group continues to ink franchise deals for more ’Til We Meet Again stores, but the Wichita company has also experienced its first setback.

The chain’s first franchisee was to open a custom casket store in Glenbrook Square in Fort Wayne, Ind., in May, but Willow Group’s Nathan Smith says mall management changed its mind without giving him or local media a reason.

“Glenbrook Square officials likely sealed a casket company’s fate in Fort Wayne,” read the lead of a Journal Gazette story, which was one of several stories about the issue that appeared in local media outlets.

“It was a mess,” says Smith, who is partners in Willow Group with Traci Smith-Cone.

“Honestly, it took us by surprise,” Smith says. “We do everything we can in the beginning to make sure everything is secured.”

He says the mall took five months to approve the contract.

No one with Glenbrook could be reached for comment.

Smith says the franchisee lost about $100,000 on remodeling and other expenses when told she’d have to vacate the mall five days before opening. He says the store had a contract, but there was a clause that the mall could ask the store to leave at any time.

“We definitely worked quickly with the franchisee to minimize even more loss of funds,” Smith says. “At the time, it was a scramble.”

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