McConnell Air Force Base ranks near bottom of magazine’s list of top bases for airmen

WICHITA — AirForceTimes on Tuesday released a report of the top bases for airmen.

“No matter the service, no matter the era, one of the favorite pastimes of troops has always been comparing duty stations — griping about the lousy ones and singing the praises of the good ones,” the magazine said.

McConnell Air Force Base might have cause to gripe – about the list.

McConnell makes the list, but of 68 bases on it, McConnell was tied for 66th.

“McConnell is a great place to work, live and raise a family,” 22nd Air Refueling Wing Commander Col. Joel Jackson said in a statement. “I am proud of our base, proud to be a part of the Wichita community. The people and Airmen of Wichita and McConnell AFB make it where I want to live.”

Affordable housing and recreational opportunities helped Scott Air Force Base in Illinois and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio tie for tops on the list.

Jackson has his own list of things to brag about for McConnell.

“Team McConnell benefits from an unparalleled level of community support and partnership, enhancing the quality of life for our Airmen and their families,” he said in the statement. “As a result, McConnell AFB was selected as the runner-up for the 2013 Commander-in-Chief’s Annual Award for Installation Excellence, which recognizes DoD’s (Department of Defense) exemplary base. Today, the support of the numerous communities surrounding McConnell AFB enables the total force to continue to build on that success, and accomplish our mission of global reach each and every day.”

You don’t say

“To me, this was like going to the grocery store with Dad.”

BlackTop Nationals executive director Jim Petty on the Ford’s Ride & Drive event, which he says many BlackTop attendees find thrilling but is no big deal for him as the son of a race car driver

Sunbelt Rentals enters market with store

WICHITA — Sunbelt Rentals, an international company that bills itself as the second-largest rental company nationally, is entering the Wichita market.

“We’ve got a variety of products that we’ll be able to provide,” says district manager Keith Dressendorfer.

He says Sunbelt, which is based in England and has U.S. headquarters in South Carolina, already has customers here. Now they’ll have a store to shop at in addition to online.

Sunbelt is remodeling a 13,000-square-foot building at 3410 W. 30th St. South. Dressendorfer says it should be ready by late September, but the company will have a soft opening sometime in August.

There are more than 400 Sunbelt stores, many of which surround the Midwest.

“Basically there’s been a void in the Midwest,” Dressendorfer says. “We just want to start filling in some of the Midwest.”

The company now has stores in Oklahoma City, Joplin, Mo., Rogers, Ark., and Kansas City. A second Kansas City store is in the works.

“A year ago, none of those existed for us,” Dressendorfer says. He says there’s “quite a lot of growth up in this area for us.”

Sunbelt does “a little bit of everything,” Dressendorfer says.

There are a dozen divisions, such as a general tool group, a concrete and masonry group, an earth moving division, an oil and gas division, a climate control division and a scaffolding division.

Dressendorfer says customers could be anyone from a homeowner needing to rent something for a one-time use to a Fortune 500 company needing to rent a number of things.

“We will do business with pretty much anybody,” he says.

General and commercial contractors are some of Sunbelt’s most regular customers.

Dressendorfer says there is a budget for nine employees initially, “But who knows where it will go after that?”

He says Sunbelt plans to hire locally.

Dressendorfer says a second Wichita store or more throughout Kansas are possibilities.

“There will always be that opportunity.”

Augusta Municipal Airport manager hopes to have restaurant at airport

WICHITA — Augusta Municipal Airport manager Lloyd Partin’s latest hope for the airport is a restaurant.

“Most people fly with some sort of intention in their trip,” he says. “It gives people a reason to fly, especially for leisure reasons.”

Partin says the idea would be to lure people flying in for the proverbial $100 hamburger but also attract people driving in from around the area.

He says it’s about giving “another reason why the airport is important.”

Partin says the car rentals that the airport added are used more by nonfliers than those flying in.

There’s a hurdle to a restaurant, though.

“The primary issue right now is having access to a sewer line,” Partin says. “That’s the critical component.”

He says a microsewage treatment plant is a possibility, as is getting a line extended from Andover.

“We were discussing the possibility with the city of Andover,” Partin says. “We’re still working on that and still having discussions with them.”

Ideally, Partin would like a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“That would be my goal,” he says. Having a full-service menu “would be a real benefit.”

“It would be a good location for something like that.”

Partin says he’s spoken with potential operators but doesn’t have anything waiting on the back burner. He says there’s interest, though.

“I think a restaurant, from the airports that have one, is kind of like icing on the cake,” he says. “It brings it full circle in terms of providing a reason for people to get out and fly.”

MakeICT will remain in Delano for now

WICHITA — When Bluebird Arthouse closed in late May, MakeICT had to scramble a bit to make sure it would still have a place to operate.

The group had been subleasing space at Bluebird, which was on West Douglas just east of Seneca in Delano.

Now, with help from the Knight Foundation Fund of the Wichita Community Foundation, MakeICT has a new lease at the address along with money to help pay for it and utilities for six months.

MakeICT formed in 2012 as part of the international Makerspace movement and recently was granted a nonprofit status.

“It’s this very cool thing that sometimes I think I’m too old to understand, but I’m trying,” says Shelly Prichard, president and CEO of the Wichita Community Foundation.

“It’s very loosely defined,” she says, “… which is part of what my personality has trouble with.”

Makerspaces are types of community centers that also have tools to help with all kinds of creativity.

That could be a wood shop, machine shop, art studio or science lab. Currently, MakeICt members can share a 3D printer, a foam cutting machine, PCs, CNC machines and other equipment and tools.

“It’s mostly about creation, whatever that looks like,” Prichard says. It’s things that aren’t necessarily connected … except by the idea of creation and community.”

Though she teases that she may be too old for it, Prichard says MakeICT actually is for people of all ages, backgrounds and interests.

“It’s not just a technology focus. It’s also the idea of community and coming together.”

Prichard says the idea of people with common interests coming together in a community to make things might be something people see on TV, “but it’s here in Wichita, and it’s happening.”

Along with help for rent and utilities, MakeICt also received money for new equipment and will have help for future planning and development.

“The part I’m excited about is the creation of a business plan,” Prichard says, “… just for sustainability so that they can grow and figure out a way to continue having this impact.”

She says the idea is for a business model to support the nonprofit idea.

Prichard says the goal is to get MakeICT a little closer to downtown, but she’s not sure where it may wind up after its lease in Delano expires.

“Hopefully that’s what the business plan will determine.”

You don’t say

“I usually like to start by asking if there are FBI officials in the house. Probably not, but they’re probably listening.”

Matt Cecil, director of the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University, talking at Rotary Monday about his book “Hoover’s FBI and the Fourth Estate: The Campaign to Control the Press and the Bureau’s Image

2 Attics Antique Mall and Estate Liquidation Services to downsize

WICHITA — In 2011, Kirby Melugin told Have You Heard? he was expanding his 2 Attics Antique Mall and Estate Liquidation Services to make more room for vendors.

Now, he’s downsizing his space near 61st and Hydraulic in Park City to give himself a little bit of breathing room.

“When it’s just me, it’s just kind of hard to take care of everything,” he says.

In addition to having the store, Melugin says he’s been doing a lot of on-site estate sales.

He says he’s decided to keep the 5,000 square feet he added in 2011 because it’s a little larger than the space he originally opened.

“The main thing is, we’re not closing. We’re just downsizing.”

After Labor Day, Melugin is going to start closing the store on Mondays and Tuesdays. Now, he’s open seven days a week.

“I need a day off,” he says.

“I’m going to work smarter, let’s just put it that way.”

You don’t say

“I would have said it anyway.”

Redbird Flight Simulations owner Jerry Gregoire, noting that Cessna Aircraft representatives were at Farnborough instead of the Wichita Aero Club Thursday when he discussed what happens when accountants take over aviation companies

Ribbit Computers owner to start chain of fast casual Mediterranean restaurants

WICHITA — Alex Harb has good news and bad news, depending on your perspective.

Last fall, the Ribbit Computers owner and new Golden Corral franchisee told Have You Heard? he was considering bringing Jack in the Box to Wichita.

He’s decided not to do that, but Harb instead is going to open a fast casual Mediterranean restaurant in September.

Meddys will open in the former Jimmy’s Egg space at Harry and Rock.

“I believe that there’s a need for a fast casual Mediterranean food,” Harb says. “It’s not fast food.”

Meddys, which is kind of a nickname for the Mediterranean, will serve chicken and beef shawarma, kabobs, salad, hummus and falafel. Harb says meat will be off a spit.

“There’s nothing like it in town,” he says. “It’s extra work.”

Harb says he’s purposely keeping the menu simple.

“We’re not trying to be everything for everyone.”

Harb, who entered the restaurant business with a Raymore, Mo., Golden Corral earlier this year, says he plans to do four Meddys in the Wichita area over the next five years.

“Everybody is leaning towards the healthier food,” he says.

That’s part of the reason Harb says he decided to do Meddys instead of Jack in the Box.

“There’s plenty of places that are serving just hamburgers and tacos and everything that Jack in the Box serves.”

Harb says he likes the traffic around Harry and Rock.

“It’s pretty good exposure,” he says. “I think this location will do very well.”

Marty Johnson to return to radio with ‘Mondays with Marty’

WICHITA — When Marty Johnson of Johnson’s Garden Centers announced he was ending his radio show in early 2013, he said, “It’s time to do something else, like ride my bike on Saturday mornings!”

Now, he’s figured out a way to do both.

Johnson and his son, Jeremy, will be on KQAM, 1480-AM, from 5 to 6 p.m. on Mondays.

The previous show was on KNSS, 1330-AM, for the better part of three decades.

The new show will be called “Mondays with Marty.”

“It’ll be kind of the same format as before,” Johnson says. “It’ll draw a different audience than the Saturday morning audience.”

Johnson says he and customers missed the show.

“We heard comments,” he says.

Johnson, an avid bicyclist, does not think the new show should interfere with his riding.

“No, in fact … I’ll be able to ride to the station.”