UPDATED — Some people buy sports cars or take extravagant trips for their midlife crises, but Neil Bhakta is choosing to share his with all of Wichita by opening three new businesses.
The Smoothie King partner is planning his fourth Smoothie King site, this time downtown in the former Rock Island Depot, where he also plans a new restaurant and venue space.
“This is going to be my midlife crisis project right here,” Bhakta says.
“I love the building that we’re going into.”
Old Town Martini, which was the last business there, closed in 2009.
Occidental Management purchased the building earlier this year as part of its purchase of the Union Station campus. The company plans a mixed-use development, which will have retail and office space and possibly residential as well. Smoothie King is the first announced tenant.
“It’s good to get the first one done,” says Chad Stafford, Occidental president. “We’re excited to get rolling down there.”
Stafford thinks Smoothie King will do well.
“It’s going to do terrific,” he says. “Certainly there’s a lot of traffic. … That site, as it begins to develop and get rolling, we’ll have a lot of visitors to it.”
Bhakta says Occidental will restore the exterior of the building.
“It’s going to be a nice project.”
It’s one he says he previously wouldn’t have even considered.
In the dozen or so years of having Smoothie King, Bhakta says, “We never looked at downtown.”
That’s even though he grew up in the area.
“We actually left,” Bhakta says. “Downtown in the ’90s, we didn’t have much faith in it … coming back.”
That’s what has happened, though, he says.
“What they’ve done downtown is amazing.”