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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Simon Property Group hires local firm to market space

WICHITA — It’s not exactly news when new space is available at a mall, but Jeff Englert makes a good case for 8,000 square feet that he and Grubb & Ellis/Martens Commercial Group colleagues are marketing at Towne East Square.

“To my knowledge, it’s the first time that Simon used third-party brokers in Wichita,” he says of Simon Property Group, which owns the mall.

Perhaps more significantly, Englert says, “They want to go after nontraditional mall tenants for this.”

Not that he and fellow brokers Nathan Farha and Grant Glasgow won’t look at retail.

“Retail is definitely going to be our first play there.”

However, Simon has had some luck with nonretail tenants, such as Wright Career College.

“They want to explore that some more,” Englert says.

The space is located on the west side of Towne East between Dillard’s and Sears at the second-most busy main entrance of the mall. Englert says it’s possible to add a glass exterior so the space is visible from outside the mall.

After retail, Englert says there could be possibilities such as office users, educational facilities or a fitness center.

He says he’ll soon have news on a new Towne West Square tenant.

“This will be pretty big news, let’s put it that way.”

Look for it in about a month or so.

‘Til We Meet Again custom casket store to open at Towne West Square


WICHITA — Nathan Smith wants to talk about his new store, but first he has a few questions.

“Are you ready?” he says of the new business at Towne West Square.

“Are you sure you’re ready? Is Wichita ready?”

His business, ’Til We Meet Again, will sell custom caskets and urns.

“It’s very specialized, very unique,” Smith says. “You can personalize it however you want.”

That could be with such things as a college-themed casket or one decorated with motorcycle memorabilia. There’s a whole service-oriented line, such as for firemen and members of the military.

The business is a switch for Smith, who has been a sales-and-marketing consultant across the country for the last 16 years.

“I was tired of the travel and tired of relocating my family,” he says.

He’s long had the idea for this company.

“I drew my first custom casket in a meeting — a very boring meeting, obviously.”

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You don’t say

“I know it sounds ridiculous. . . . You don’t walk into Dillard’s and go, ‘Hey! Hosiery used to be there.’ ”

Sheplers department manager Rachelle LeValley on the symbolic importance of the hat bar (where hats are repaired) that’s been moved back to its home of many years at the front of the store

Complete Nutrition to open at Towne East Square

WICHITA — A new supplement store is opening at Towne East Square.

Complete Nutrition will be in about 1,500 square feet on the lower level near Dillard’s.

“It’s kind of a newer franchise,” says owner Austin Schweitzer.

He says several people who used to be involved with GNC started the chain.

Schweitzer says the store sells supplements to help with muscle building, weight loss and general health.

With sometimes extreme Kansas weather, Schweitzer says he preferred to open in a mall rather than a strip center.

“It seems like most people would rather shop in the mall,” he says.

Complete Nutrition opens Oct. 1.

Chinese Acupressure to convert from kiosk to store at Towne East Square

WICHITA — Four years after first opening a kiosk in Towne East Square, Chinese Acupressure is converting its business to a full store.

“We want to provide more services to our customers and more privacy, too,” says owner Anita Chou.

In May, she opened a full store at Towne West Mall, and Chou says the reception has been terrific.

“Everybody’s happy,” she says.

She offers chair massages, full-body massages and reflexology.

Look for the new store to open Aug. 1 across from where the kiosk has been near Dillard’s.

Christmas in July at Dillard’s

santaWICHITA — While shopping for a swimsuit Friday, the day before the Fourth of July, it wasn’t so out of the ordinary to hear Dillard’s playing some patriotic tunes.

But in between the National Anthem and Lee Greenwood’sProud to be an American,” I heard the first Christmas announcements of the season.

That’s right. Of the Christmas season. You know, the one six months from now.

There was something about getting a jump on holiday deals. There also was something about Santa’s helpers, but I wasn’t about to stick around to see if they were actually there.