Grand Chapel to get new sign along with possible new owner

WICHITA — The stone sign in front of the Grand Chapel event space at 828 N. Broadway has been demolished, but it’s not because the business is closing.

It’s because a new LED sign with a moving message is going to be installed.

“I’ve been fighting this for years,” says co-owner Dennis Wilkie, who says his partner insisted on the new sign.

The Grand Chapel's sign is now gone, but a new LED sign will soon be in its place.

The Grand Chapel’s sign is now gone, but a new LED sign will soon be in its place.

“Yeah, they might get a lot more attention, but I think they just kind of look cheesy,” Wilkie says. “I’d like to keep it more of a refined look.”

As Wilkie told Have You Heard? in March, he’s trying to sell the business and the building, which is a 1917 former church with 18,000 square feet and seating for more than 600 people in the former sanctuary. There’s also a reception hall, dance floor and bar area.

“I’ve got a lot of interest in the business from people who just wouldn’t qualify to buy the real estate,” Wilkie says.

He says he also has someone who is interested in buying the building, and he says it may be a situation where he can bring two parties together for a deal.

As for the sign, Wilkie says it “could be a permanent thing, or it could be a temporary thing.”

“Maybe we are better off raising the visibility of the place.”

Dennis Wilkie wants to sell Grand Chapel

The Grand Chapel at 828 north Broadway is for sale. (Mar.5, 2014)WICHITA — Like hosting parties? Planning weddings? Need a place to do it?

Dennis Wilkie has a deal for you. He’s selling his Grand Chapel at 828 N. Broadway, where he’s been hosting weddings and other events in the former First Church of Christ, Scientist.

“It’s quite a place to operate if you’re a socialite or wanting to be,” Wilkie says.

He says it’s a chance to “get paid to be host of the party.”

“That’s not my cup of tea.”

Wilkie, who operates other businesses, says the Grand Chapel didn’t do well unless he was running it on a day-to-day basis.

“I just don’t have time to run the place myself,” he says. “I was just going in circles. I was trying to find someone to run that business the way I would.”

The 1917 building has 18,000 square feet and seating for more than 600 people in the former sanctuary. There’s also a reception hall, dance floor and bar area.

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You don’t say: Our favorites from 2013

Some were newsy, some were shocking, but most were simply fun or funny. Here are some of our favorite “You don’t say” quotes from 2013.

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“I said, ‘You must know a lot of angry people.’ (They) said, ‘I work at Spirit.’”

Best of Times owner Nancy Robinson on a person who bought 10 Dammit Dolls, the soft dolls angry people can safely slam on any surface to blow off steam on bad days

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“My first place that I am not going to get married at is the Grand Chapel.”

– Sedgwick County Chairman Jim Skelton, whose upcoming marriage to Stacy Luke won’t take place at the facility he sued over his daughter’s wedding

“That’s correct, he’s not.”

– Grand Chapel owner Dennis Wilkie, who says Skelton is “a troublemaker, and I just don’t want to deal with troublemakers.”

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“Women pilots don’t land at the wrong airport. We ask for directions!”

– A tweet from Seattle-based pilot Karlene Petitt (‏@KarlenePetitt) about the Dreamlifter incident at Colonel James Jabara Airport

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“Be aware, Boeing, ‘this route has tolls.’ Bring some change.”

– An NPR story that acknowledged a stranded Dreamlifter likely couldn’t be towed from Colonel James Jabara Airport to McConnell Air Force Base but offered a Google map and driving directions anyway

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“I thought I’d get in line right behind him.”

– Outgoing Chamber chairwoman Debbie Gann, who “about choked” at the group’s annual dinner Tuesday when possible mayoral candidate Jeff Turner suggested she would make a great mayor

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“I’m going to drop off a baked bean can and a string tomorrow … so we can chat later in the day.”

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers co-owner Scott Redler teasing City Council member Pete Meitzner about his antiquated BlackBerry

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“With all the crying and whining in Washington, I’m feeling ready to be a new father come November.”

– Expectant father U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder speaking Friday at the 2013 Congressional Summit at the Hotel at Old Town

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“We know you’re a Democrat.”

– Park City administrator Jack Whitson, teasing the city’s chamber president, registered Republican Dean Frankenbery, about a misprint that said Rep. Mike Pompom, not Pompeo, would be the group’s next speaker

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“I know you are all wondering if that beautiful new red car parked over there is a door prize. It’s not. It’s the speaker’s gift.”

Delta Dental of Kansas vice president of human resources Kara Hunt, speaking at the Chamber’s Sunrise Scrambler about a car that Davis-Moore had at the event

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“I thought that Davis-Moore . . . has been hurting so bad that they needed a sale, so I thought I’d help them out.”

– Car dealer Brandon Steven, joking about why he bought a Viper at his competitor’s dealership

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“I think it’s awesome that he bought himself a nice car.”

– Davis-Moore’s Dawson Grimsley, retorting with a teasing implication that Steven couldn’t find a nice car at his own lot

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“The @WichitaOrpheum could use a little Jesus after @RealTracyMorgan’s performance there. #itwaspurefilth”

— A tweet from comedian Ron Shively, aka @FunnyMrBiggs, after hearing City Life Church is going to rent the Orpheum Theatre every Sunday morning for services

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“Puppies and people all over town are sad today.”

—Accountant David Jabara on the death of Doggy Day Care owner Marilyn Walk

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You don’t say

“My first place that I am not going to get married at is the Grand Chapel.”

– Sedgwick County Chairman Jim Skelton, whose upcoming marriage to Stacy Luke won’t take place at the facility he sued over his daughter’s wedding

“That’s correct, he’s not.”

– Grand Chapel owner Dennis Wilkie, who says Skelton is “a troublemaker, and I just don’t want to deal with troublemakers.”

County Commissioner Jim Skelton and Grand Chapel owner Dennis Wilkie trade insults over financial dispute

WICHITA — Payment for what was supposed to be a joyous wedding in July is now cause for an acrimonious court date instead.

At issue is almost $3,000 that County Commissioner Jim Skelton says one of his daughters paid to the Grand Chapel to reserve wedding space. He says she decided to hold the event elsewhere and now can’t get back the money, some of which he says is from her savings and some of which he says he paid.

“This guy’s an idiot,” says Grand Chapel owner Dennis Wilkie. “He’s trying to wiggle out of this.”

Wilkie says he would have been willing to work with the bride if her father hadn’t been so rude.

“He was trying to use his political office to … try to strong-arm me to give him all his money back,” Wilkie says. “The minute somebody starts trying to bully me, I take a pretty firm position myself.”

Skelton says a small claims court already sided with him but that Wilkie appealed to district court.

“He made some statements that I will look forward to him clarifying in court,” Skelton says.

He calls Wilkie’s comments “pretty weird” and “disappointing,” and Skelton says he particularly takes exception to Wilkie’s claim that he’s abusing his elected office.

“That just sounds crazy and unreasonable,” Skelton says. “I guess if that’s his best defense on this matter, then I look forward to winning twice, which is better than winning once.”

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Grand Chapel has staffing upheaval

WICHITA — When last we checked in with Dennis Wilkie and his Grand Chapel event center at 828 N. Broadway, he’d just — as he put it — cleaned house.

Looks like he’s done it again. And again.

“I’ve gone through half a dozen different managers in the last few months,” Wilkie says. “When I’m not in attendance over there, it’s kind of like a kindergarten class with the teacher gone.”

Wilkie says staffing issues have hurt business.

“It’s no secret (that) management and staff that I’ve had in the past have just run this thing in the ground,” he says. “I can’t even imagine how many bookings were available that just slipped through our fingers. … We should be booked solid for the next three years, and we’re not.”

Wilkie says all he’s tried to do is have a business “where everybody’s happy and everything is run professional.”

Even though the business hasn’t “made a profit in a long, long time,” Wilkie says “there’s no chance — no chance whatsoever … it’s going to go under.”

“When I get good management in there, it does real well.”

Wilkie thinks he has good management in place now.

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Grand Chapel makes upgrades and staff changes, and adds all-inclusive bridal packages in effort to become profitable

A photo of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, before it became the Grand Chapel.

WICHITA — There have been some substantial changes at the Grand Chapel in the last four months, which not coincidentally have been the first four months the venue has shown a profit in its six-year history.

That’s according to Dennis Wilkie, who took over the former First Church of Christ, Scientist, at 828 N. Broadway with his son, Allen, in late 2005.

“We just looked at every single thing we’re doing … policy, procedure, prices and personnel,” Dennis Wilkie says.

Having enough business hasn’t been the issue, he says.

“There’s plenty of business, but it has failed to be profitable for us,” he says. “Frankly, I’ve got plenty to do without running businesses that don’t make money.”

First, he says, they cleaned house.

Then, Wilkie says they spent about $150,000 in repairs and upgrades.

Now, they’re offering new all-inclusive packages for weddings that Wilkie thinks will take the business to the next level.

“All the problems that we’ve had over the years … it’s trying to coordinate all these different vendors that the bride has enlisted,” Wilkie says. “When one of those vendors or suppliers fails to do what they’re supposed to do … it seems like we get the blame for it.”

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