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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Complete Landscaping files Chapter 11, is hopeful for large new contract

WICHITA — A Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing is the latest twist in what’s been an ongoing financial and legal struggle for Complete Landscaping Systems.

“I’ve taken a look at the gross revenues of the company, which are pretty substantial,” attorney David Eron says. “I think we’ve got plenty to work with to turn this thing around.”

In early September, it looked like Complete Landscaping had sold most of its assets to Wichita attorney Rick Hodge, who said he wanted to expand his Yard Concerns landscaping business.

Eron says what happened with Hodge is “a sensitive question.”

“Bottom line is there never was a final agreement with Rick Hodge,” Eron says.

“It was just immediately apparent that this deal with Rick was absolutely not going to come anywhere close to taking care of the financial issues the company had,” he says. “I personally told him the deal was done, and it was not going to go forward.”

The first hearing in the bankruptcy case is Wednesday.

“There’s certain things we have to do in order to continue operating the business,” Eron says. The point is to “try to get some time where we don’t have to worry about all the lawsuits.”

There are about 35 lawsuits again Complete Landscaping, mostly from local and some out-of-state vendors.

“Really, most of the debt problems generally are fallout from the Bank of America contract,” Eron says.

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Wichita attorney purchases most of Complete Landscaping’s local assets

UPDATED — Almost all of Complete Landscaping Systems’ local business has sold.

“We have purchased 90 percent of their local operations,” says Rick Hodge, a bankruptcy attorney.

Hodge owns Yard Concerns, a company that until now has mainly existed to service commercial and residential properties he owns.

“Now we’re going to try to grow it and branch out,” Hodge says.

During a slower season in a month or two, Hodge says he’ll relocate equipment he purchased from Complete Landscaping to another building.

“We are not Complete Landscaping by any means,” he says. “Complete is still in existence.”

Complete Landscaping owner Laura McMurray didn’t have an immediate comment.

The company, which McMurray purchased in 2010, has had a series of financial and legal issues since then, much of them stemming from a dispute with Bank of America, which once had been a large national account for the company.

“I know that Complete has been having a lot of problems,” Hodge says. “I knew they had some cash flow problems. … I’m fearful their entire ship is or was sinking.”

His career as a bankruptcy attorney influenced his decision to buy most of Complete Landscaping’s local assets and accounts, he says.

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Mayor and governor meet about Finney State Office Building; state may be zeroing in on new DCF space

WICHITA — The state appears to be zeroing in on new space for the Department for Children and Families near East 47th Street South and South Oliver, even as Mayor Carl Brewer is working to try to keep the office where it is.

“I have been digging into this, and I have heard from reliable folks that the state is looking at (that building),” said Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita), who has been critical of a possible move.

Brewer went to Topeka on Wednesday to visit with Gov. Sam Brownback about keeping DCF and other state agencies in the Finney State Office Building at 230 E. William.

Last month, Have You Heard? reported that the state of Kansas has notified the city of Wichita that its nine agencies that occupy the downtown building won’t be renewing their leases after 20 years in the city-owned space. That means more than 700 people will be moving, more than 550 of whom are with DCF.

According to Loopnet, an online commercial real estate site, there’s a two-story, 100,000-square-foot former Bank of America call center that’s available near the southwest corner of the intersection, and it looks like that’s what the state could be interested in.

“I hope that that’s not true,” Ward said. “I don’t think that’s a good spot. … I don’t think that’s a good location for those kinds of services.”

One of his concerns is that Jezebel’s, an adult club, is across the street.

“It’s not unusual for kids to be part of their parents’ dealing with the state,” Ward said.

He also wonders how accessible the site would be compared to the more centralized Finney building.

Brewer didn’t return calls for comment. A representative of the governor’s office confirmed the meeting but wouldn’t say anything more.

“I know that the governor and Mayor Brewer did in fact meet this morning,” said spokeswoman Sara Belfry. “I believe they talked about a couple of things, including the Wichita office building.”

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Complete Landscaping and Michael’s Complete Lawn Care to share work space

WICHITA — Complete Landscaping Systems owner Laura McMurray was looking through tax lien notices when she saw competitor Michael’s Complete Lawn Care.

She also saw an opportunity and called co-owner Michael Ackerman Jr. to brainstorm how the two businesses could help each other.

“We have two companies that are struggling,” McMurray says.

She has extra space at her company’s headquarters at 1727 E. Second St., so McMurray proposed they combine work spaces – without combining business.

“We’re not merging … but we will be operating out of the same facility.”

McMurray, who says the move means a savings of at least 60 percent annually for each company, says it’s an approach that other landscaping companies are taking nationally.

“It’s just completely thinking outside the box to try to save overhead costs,” Ackerman says. “I would have never thought this would happen.”

Ackerman, who owns Michael’s with his parents, Connie and Mike Ackerman Sr., has 11 full-time employees and anywhere from 35 to 60 employees during peak season. He leases 15,000 square feet of space in three buildings at 2320 S. Mead.

McMurray, who has 23 full-time employees and about 100 during peak season, has two 7,000-square-foot buildings, one of which she’ll continue to use and one that Ackerman now will use. He says he especially likes that there’s lots of exterior space, which helps for all of the company’s large equipment.

The two businesses also will begin using each other as subcontractors.

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Domino’s to move west-side store to 21st and Maize area

WICHITA — Domino’s franchisees Mike and Stacia McKnight are moving their restaurant near Central and Tyler to new space near 21st and Maize after the close of business on Monday.

“It has a pick-up window that we’ll be able to utilize, and the corner is busier,” Mike McKnight says of the new space.

The restaurant, which will have delivery in addition to the drive through, will be in part of the former In the Bag Cleaners space. That’s in the same center where the new Heads and New Balance shoe stores are.

In the Bag owner David Coyle found he didn’t need the approximately 2,600 square feet that Best Cleaners used to use as a plant after he bought that store.

“It was just way too much space,” Coyle says.

He’ll now have 1,100 square feet.

“It’ll make a big difference.”

There will be a second drive-through lane next to the Domino’s drive through for a Bank of America ATM.

The McKnights, who have two Domino’s stores here, three in Topeka and six in the Kansas City area, want to open more in Wichita.

Mike McKnight says, “We think total, the market would be able to handle six to seven.”

Look for more lease signings soon.

Junior Achievement 2011 Wichita Business Hall of Fame offered humorous and poignant moments

Oleksandra and Phil Ruffin greeted Richard Smith and his wife, Sondra Langel, at the Junior Achievement 2011 Wichita Business Hall of Fame dinner Tuesday.

WICHITA — The Junior Achievement 2011 Wichita Business Hall of Fame dinner Tuesday offered an entertaining evening full of poignant and funny moments.

Emcee Susan Peters of KAKE, Channel 10, started with words of wisdom for business people who might like to be inducted in the future.

“If you would like to be honored, you should be on your best behavior,” she advised.

Jim Farha spoke on behalf of himself and his brother, fellow inductee George Farha. The Lebanese immigrants are both physicians.

“We love this great country,” Farha said. “Without being political, we believe that America is truly an exceptional nation, and we are very grateful for the opportunities that we have been afforded.”

Phillip Ruffin Jr. introduced his father, inductee Phil Ruffin Sr., whom he noted was a grand state wrestling champion while at North High School.

“And this is something we hear about almost on a daily basis,” said the younger Ruffin.

He noted the win was back when there weren’t different divisions for schools, meaning the then 147-pound Ruffin had to wrestle everyone in his weight class.

“He whooped ’em all.”

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