Knork Flatware expands Bed Bath & Beyond presence to 650 stores

WICHITA — Newton-based Knork Flatware has landed a deal to sell its products in 650 Bed Bath & Beyond stores.

“It’s obviously going to impact sales substantially for us,” Knork president Tom Carson says. “It’s probably our largest retail account for a box store.”

The company began working with the chain in 2008.

“Bed Bath & Beyond started as a test,” says Knork vice president of marketing Lacy Simon.

Initially, the flatware that features its signature knife and fork in one utensil — a Knork — was in only the Wichita Bed Bath & Beyond stores.

“It’s just built from there,” Simon says. “The product sold very well.”

The number grew to 200 before jumping to 650, though Carson notes there are many more Bed Bath & Beyond stores than that, and he’d like to be in all of them. Knork is on the chain’s bridal registry as well.

“That’s done very well for us, too,” Carson says.

“I like to get Knork anywhere there’s heavy bridal,” Simon says.

There are 200 Dillard’s stores that sell Knork.

“Right now, Dillard’s is exploring the opportunities to expand, and that might be a possibility for spring 2013,” Simon says. “Macy’s is looking at a test for next fall.”

Target and Kohl’s also carry Knork online but not in their stores. Simon says Knork’s extensive manufacturing process makes it more expensive than other flatware lines sold in those stores.

There are now about 50 Knork products and $2 million in annual sales for the company, which started in 2004 with one product that Wichita resident Mike Miller created.

“It was kind of gadgetry,” Carson says. “A fork that cuts like a knife.”

The issue was “just overcoming some of the consumer skeptics of the new kind of unfamiliar product,” Simon says.

“It was quite a struggle at the beginning.”

It sometimes still is.

“It is truly such an experiential product,” Simon says. She says the goal is always to put the product into someone’s hands.

“You’ve really got to put it in your hands to experience the functionality of it,” Carson says.

Starting out, Carson says the company sold direct to other businesses.

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Soma Intimates to open at Bradley Fair

WICHITA — Chico’s FAS Inc. is bringing another new store to Bradley Fair.

Almost seven years ago, the Florida-based Chico’s opened two brands – Chico’s and White House/Black Market – at the development.

Now, the company has plans to open Soma Intimates, which sells lingerie and sleepwear.

“Because the women of Wichita have embraced Chico’s and White House/Black Market, the company is eager … to bring Soma to Bradley Fair,” says Cathy Erickson, vice president at Laham Development.

The first Soma Intimates opened in 2004. Now there are almost 200 of the boutiques nationally.

The Bradley Fair store, which will be between Brick’s and Trio’s, will be 2,520 square feet.

“We’re taking excess space not being used by Brick’s and building that out for Soma,” Erickson says.

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Maurices to expand at NewMarket Square

WICHITA — Maurices is expanding at NewMarket Square.

“I know that they’ve wanted to expand for years, and we’ve just finally found an opportunity to do that,” says April Reed of Slawson Cos., the NewMarket developer.

The shop, which sells women’s clothing, accessories and shoes, currently is in 3,622 square feet between the former Borders store and Justice.

In July or August, Maurices will move to 6,000 square feet near Bed Bath & Beyond. Old Navy recently downsized, and Maurices will take its former space.

Reed, who handled the deal for the space, says Maurices is making the move in part to expand its plus-size offerings.

Bradley Fair and Fresh Market confirm the grocery store is coming in 2012

UPDATED — Bradley Fair developer George Laham now confirms what Have You Heard? reported last month:

The Fresh Market grocery chain is coming to the former Ultimate Electronics space in 2012.

“The shopping center is just a perfect fit for our concept,” says Drewry Sackett, Fresh Market’s manager of public relations and community relations.

Laham, president of Laham Development, began looking for a specialty grocery store to bring to Wichita even before Ultimate Electronics closed.

In recent years, Wichitans have been hoping for a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.

“After looking at the Fresh Market, this was the clear choice,” Laham says.

“The only reason they’re not saying, ‘We want Fresh Market,’ is because they don’t know it,” says Cathy Erickson, vice president at Laham Development.

The Greensboro, N.C.-based chain has about 110 stores either open or opening soon, and this one will be the farthest west.

Sackett calls Wichita “a really solid Midwestern market that supports our growth into that region of the country.”

The chain is heavily concentrated in the southeast, which Laham says is why most Wichitans aren’t familiar with it.

Laham says as he began looking for a specialty grocery store, he looked throughout the industry before choosing Fresh Market.

“They are clearly a market leader,” he says.

Sackett says, “Our stores are a little bit different, certainly, than a traditional grocery store.”

She says the store is a warmer, more intimate atmosphere with classical music playing, freshly brewed coffee awaiting customers and floral arrangements greeting them at the door.

“You can see across the entire store, and that really sort of lends to that feeling of a more intimate setting,” Sackett says.

“It’s very much a European market,” Laham says. “It’s like being in Italy at an open-air market.”

The 22,000-square-foot space will be fairly compact to navigate.

“That’s kind of the beauty of it,” Erickson says.

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Rue21 coming to Derby Marketplace

WICHITA — Rue21 is coming to Derby Marketplace at 71st South and Rock Road.

The clothing store, which targets younger males and females, will open in 4,500 square feet of the 7,500 square feet between Maurices and Dressbarn just south of Target.

Construction began Monday, and the store should open Oct. 28.

There will be more Marketplace news coming this fall.

“We do have a couple of different junior anchors that we’re getting extremely close with,” says developer Mark McPherson.

The stores, which could be anywhere from 15,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet, are similar in size to stores like Bed Bath & Beyond, T.J. Maxx and Best Buy — not that those are necessarily the stores that are coming.

Look for more information soon.

Alter Ego Fashions to open at NewMarket Square by June

WICHITA — The White Dress isn’t the only new shop for women opening at NewMarket Square.

Heidi Pullman and her sister Laura Carpenter will open Alter Ego Fashions by June.

The store will be next to Justice Just For Girls and near Bed Bath & Beyond.

“It’s just kind of a women’s shopping area,” Pullman says.

Carpenter recently moved from South Dakota, where she’s worked in a boutique the last three years.

“She kind of learned the ropes there,” Pullman says.

The two have since been doing in-home fashion shows with various product lines.

“People really like the product,” Pullman says.

Alter Ego will sell women’s apparel, shoes, jewelry and accessories.

“Really, just to get more exposure, we thought a location would be better,” Pullman says.

She says NewMarket Square at 21st and Maize was easily her choice.

“It’s just kind of the place to shop on the west side.”

April Reed of Slawson Cos. handled the deal for the almost 2,000-square-foot space.

Pullman’s husband, Dustin, owns two Beds For Less and has been offering retail advice.

“He’s just kind of guiding us on how to start a business,” Heidi Pullman says.

She’s already thinking of future stores.

“We’d like to expand,” Pullman says. “So we’re going to start here . . . and then grow.”

Knork gets marketing help thanks to Top Chefs

WICHITA — Thanks to Bravo’sTop Chef,” Knork Flatware has an increased presence nationally. But it’s not because the flatware, which is a combination knife and fork, is used on the show.

It’s because some of the chefs that have been on the show are using or plan to use the flatware in their restaurants.

“A lot of their chefs are very forward thinking,” says Lacy Simon, Knork’s vice president of marketing and office administration.

“I’m addicted to the show myself,” she says.

So Simon tries to contact chefs she thinks might be a good match to use Knork products.

“I just kind of stalk them, to be honest. . . . I’m in kind of shock when they call back.”

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