Retail center coming to 21st and Amidon

WICHITA — The intersection of 21st and Amidon continues to get a makeover.

The gas station at the southeast corner is being demolished to make room for a small retail development.

“We’re just going to do a little mini shopping center,” says Larry Cook of Cook Construction.

“We’ve got two really great tenants that are going to go in there,” he says.

Cook says he can’t say who the tenants are just yet.

“We’re real, real close,” he says of the deals.

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Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas to move to New Leaf Plaza

UPDATED — The Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas is turning over a New Leaf, so to speak, and moving to the shopping center of the same name at 21st and Amidon.

“It is very accessible and very visible for the public,” says Keith Lawing, president and CEO of the agency that connects workers with employers.

“I really think it’s going to be a perfect location for their new home, although some would have liked for it to stay downtown, I suppose,” says City Council member Jeff Longwell.

“They are at least for a little bit going to keep some of the administration stuff down in the Garvey building,” he says.

The Workforce Alliance had been at the former Commerce Bank building at First and Main downtown and had to scramble to find new space along with other tenants there when building issues, such as a broken elevator and suspended gas service, forced them to go elsewhere.

A site a few blocks down from First and Washington is where the Workforce Alliance temporarily is until the new space is ready.

Lawing says parking had become an issue where the Workforce Alliance was at First and Main.

“We definitely looked downtown,” he says seeking new space. “If we could have found a place that would have been adjacent to a parking garage … it would have been great.”

He says no such place could be found.

Longwell says that initially the Workforce Alliance will take about 26,000 square feet at New Leaf, which is on the southwest corner of the intersection and is home to a Walmart Neighborhood Market.

He says it “is going to be a really nice space.”

“It’s a good location, easily accessible, on a bus route,” Longwell says. “I really like that whole area. It’s kind of coming back a little bit.”

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A-OK Enterprises sues Joseph Hollander & Craft over incorrectly filed lawsuits

WICHITA — Bruce Harris and his A-OK Enterprises have sued Joseph Hollander & Craft, a past attorney for the company, but no one with the law firm is disputing wrongdoing.

“We knew eventually we were going to get real embarrassed about this, and the time has arrived,” says attorney Steve Joseph.

“We screwed up.”

The issue is over lawsuits that the firm filed to collect from A-OK customers who defaulted on payday loans. The suits were supposed to have been filed under a payday loan statute. Instead, Joseph says they were filed under a worthless check statute. The bank commissioner penalized A-OK $20,000 for the mistake.

Harris doesn’t have a comment on the situation.

“It’s understandable how this would happen unless you look at this from hindsight,” Joseph says. “The attorney responsible for it isn’t with us any longer.”

He says attorney Michael Priddle was fired over the incident.

“Under the law, he was our employee at the time, and we’re responsible …,” Joseph says.

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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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You don’t say

“It’s really like a T-shirt shop.”

A-OK Pawn Shop owner Bruce Harris, in Las Vegas for a meeting, remarking on how the shop that’s the setting for TV show “Pawn Stars” seems to sell more T-shirts to fans than anything

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 Shop owner Bruce Harris to develop new center on West Street

WICHITA — A-OK Pawn Shop owner Bruce Harris bought and recently tore down a couple of houses near his store at 410 N. West St. with new plans for development there.

“I’m putting in a new shopping center there,” Harris says.

He’s moving his One Day Jewelry & Repair, Cricket store and a financial-services store from Maple and West to the pawn shop’s address. He’ll have additional space to do leases as well.

“I’m just now getting started on it, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” Harris says.

He says he knows what the result will be, though.

“We’re beautifying … Wichita, and we’ll have a nice new center to go with the new street.”

Look for more information on Harris’ plans there in the coming weeks.

He’s also still working on centers at Harry and Broadway and at New Leaf Plaza, which was formerly Marina Lakes, at 21st and Amidon.

Harris says financing three new centers at the same time is a challenge.

“I’m trying to work out how to get that done.”

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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A-OK Pawn Shop owner Bruce Harris plans major expansions and new stores

WICHITA — A down economy means business is up for A-OK Enterprises, and owner Bruce Harris has big expansion plans.

“The economy has been very poor, and because of that, people are changing the way they’re shopping, and they’re buying a lot of stuff from me,” he says of his four A-OK Pawn Shops.

All of his businesses — the pawn shops, 12 check-cashing sites, two jewelry stores and two cell phone stores — are doing well.

“In the past year, we’ve doubled our business in the collateral loan business,” Harris says.

As banks turn away business, Harris says people needing money turn to his pawn shops.

Also, gold is at an all-time high of $1,400 an ounce.

“That’s unheard of,” Harris says.

He says $400 an ounce was the average price for the last 20 years.

“It’s helping the consumers.”

Two years ago, Harris had 70 employees throughout his businesses. Now he has 107, and he expects to have more than 200 within a year.

He plans to expand in several ways.

Harris in the process of doubling the size of two Cricket stores he owns.

He’s also looking to open two new pawn shops in Wichita.

“What I have, it just works.”

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