Bruce Harris now sole owner of New Leaf Plaza; pawn store under construction again

UPDATED — Construction is once again under way at Bruce HarrisNew Leaf Plaza at the southwest corner of 21st and Amidon.

“The whole process has started over,” Harris says.

He and partner Larry Cook have gone separate ways, which halted construction since Cook also was the contractor.

“He was more of a sweat equity partner,” Harris says. “His view of (what) we were trying to accomplish was different than mine.”

Cook says he left on good terms with Harris.

“It wasn’t like a bad deal or anything,” Cook says. “Really, it was just a disagreement, and we decided to part ways. We agreed to disagree, you might say.”

Cook adds that he thinks highly of Harris.

“Maybe just leave it at that.”

Harris says Cook is a developer and looks at a project as “how cheap can you get it done and sell it to somebody else and walk away?”

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Construction begins on one A-OK Center, second one to follow with more after that

WICHITA — Construction started this week at Bruce Harris’ new A-OK Center at New Leaf Plaza at 21st and Amidon, but that’s hardly the only new thing the pawn shop owner has going on.

“Wichita’s economy is starting to come back,” he says. “This shopping center in the middle of town is going to come alive again.”

The former Marina Lakes is now home to a Walmart Neighborhood Market that Harris says is contributing to those “sparks of life coming along.”

Harris also is about to begin building a new center at 410 N. West St.

It’ll be about 19,000 square feet, and the center at New Leaf will be 25,000 square feet.

“It’s going to be a huge place,” Harris says.

His centers at Harry and Oliver and Harry and Broadway are 18,000 square feet each.

The New Leaf center will be the “same thing on steroids.”

“What we’re doing is changing the way people shop,” Harris says. “We have new, used and lease to own.”

Both new centers and his store at Harry and Oliver will have a Better Living shop, which is Harris’ new lease-to-own concept.

New Leaf and West Street also each will have an A-OK Pawn Shop, One Day Jewelry and Repair, Cricket and A-OK Financial Services, which offers check cashing, payday loans, title loans and tax services.

Harris says the New Leaf center will be the most elaborate.

“I’m going to try to make it a lot of fun,” he says. “It’ll be kind of like Cabela’s.”

What he means is he plans a lot of displays and unusual touches that will “make it a really neat retail atmosphere that you’ve never seen in the pawn industry.”

There will be a dramatic 30-foot ceiling at the entrance of the center where Harris hopes to have something fun, such as a small plane or part of a helicopter hanging.

“We’re going to try to work with the Wichita motif.”

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A-OK Pawn Shops owner Bruce Harris to start Better Living lease-to-own business

WICHITA — A-OK Pawn Shops owner Bruce Harris is starting a new lease-to-own furniture business that he hopes will become a chain of stores.

“It’s a brand-new concept we’re coming up with,” he says of Better Living.

The first store will open in 35,000 square feet at the Marina Lakes Shopping Center at 21st and Amidon next to where Harris is opening a new pawn shop, jewelry store and phone store along with a tax services, payday loans and check cashing center.

“Other large chains of pawn shops around the country are starting to do this,” he says.

Harris says he wants to “give people a better choice” on furniture, appliances and TVs.

“We’re going to try to upscale that,” he says.

Harris says he’s starting the concept in response to customers’ requests.

“We’re giving them an additional option,” he says. “It’s very similar to the retail side of our pawn business.”

Most of the first Better Living will be in the former Hollywood Video space at Marina Lakes. An additional 10,000 square feet for storage will come from the strip center next door.

If the business is successful, Harris says he’ll add a Better Living to his pawn shop complex at Harry and Oliver next.

Eventually, he says he wants to expand the centers – including the Better Living stores – to Hutchinson and the Kansas City market.

“We’re becoming a developer rather than just a pawn shop.”

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