Old Town Architectural Salvage owners buy adjacent space, plan eventual new business

WICHITA — Upgrades coming to Douglas and St. Francis are inspiring Grant and Janet Rine to do some remodeling just up the street near their Old Town Architectural Salvage shop, at 126 N. St. Francis.

The city is reconfiguring that corridor and adding landscaping, and developers Robert Eyster and Michael Ramsey are also working to transform the Zelman building on the northeast corner into apartments, retail and restaurant space.

“That is an inspiration for us to clean that space up and do something productive,” Janet Rine says of the lot where they keep some of what they salvage.

The Rines purchased the approximately 10,000-square-foot building between their shop and the lot where they keep stone and other large pieces.

“It will, eventually over the next couple of years or so, become something else,” Rine says. “We are entertaining all kinds of ideas.”

She says her Caffe Moderne partner, Melad Stephan — who is never short on new business ideas — has said, “Gosh, wouldn’t it be great to put a great bar down there?”

She wouldn’t mind something along those lines.

“Melad would love to have, like, a Cajun bar,” she says. “Me, I’d rather have a speakeasy.”

It’s an idea she previously entertained for the salvage space.

For now, the Rines are using their new space for storage.

“It’s massively filled.”

Much like the lot, which Rine says is “driving me nuts.”

“I’d like to put temporary walls up . . . just to make it more decorative,” she says.

“We’re eventually going to empty that lot, and it will become a parking lot.”

In the meantime, she says, she’ll have to put up with it.

“It’s just my little pet peeve.”

Kansas Dance Academy owners are new operators of Crown Uptown Theatre

Ray and Diane Gans (left) and Matthew Rumsey are the new operators of the Crown Uptown Theatre.

WICHITA — Ray and Diane Gans, who have owned the Kansas Dance Academy for 26 years, are the new owners and operators of the Crown Uptown Theatre.

Last month, Have You Heard? reported that an undisclosed group made an offer to Karen Morris, who for 31 years ran the theater near Douglas and Hillside with her late husband, Ted.

“We’ve just kind of always been involved in the theater,” says Diane Gans, who will be the artistic consultant.

Ray Gans, who will be director of operations, has a band called Oncall and is the son of Jeannie Park Gans, who had been with Phil Spitalny and His All-Girl Orchestra in New York City in the 1940s.

Gans and his siblings sang professionally with their mother while growing up.

“We were the von Trapps of Wichita,” he says.

Jeannie Park Gans and her brother, Robert C. Park, are partners with Ray and Diane Gans in the Crown Uptown along with Scott and Lisa Ritchie.

“They’re just big supporters of the arts and want this to continue on with the Crown,” Ray Gans says.

The group is operating as Crown Partners.

Matthew Rumsey, an actor and former manager with Melad Stephan’s Empire Restaurant Management, is the executive artistic director and the food and beverage director.

Brian Mangers, a chef at the Candle Club, also will be the chef for the Crown Uptown.

Their first show is “White Christmas,” which will open Thanksgiving weekend.

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Press to close at the Waterfront; new business to open in its place

WICHITA — If you’re one of the people who purchased a Groupon from Press, you’d better use it soon.

Aug. 6 is the Waterfront bar’s last day in business.

“As of August sixth . . . something is going to happen there,” owner Melad Stephan says.

He has three offers for the space — two are local, one isn’t. The potential owners have three different ideas: One wants a restaurant, one wants a bistro-style business and one wants a combination bar and restaurant.

Stephan isn’t sure which one he — or his landlords — will accept. He’s hoping to get out of his lease, which still has four and a half years.

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You don’t say

“The other alternative was to close. Didn’t want to do that.”

— A very busy Janet Rine, who is now partnering with restaurateur Melad Stephan on her Caffe Moderne so she can concentrate on other projects

Italian Bistro to open in former Restaurant 155 space at First and Market

WICHITA — A third new Italian restaurant is coming to Wichita.

Kas Zendeli, who owns Bravo’s Italiani in Valley Center, is opening Italian Bistro in the former Restaurant 155 space in the Market Centre downtown at First and Market.

This follows news from Melad Stephan, who is opening Luca Italian Kitchen in his former Uptown Bistro space in Old Town Square later this month.

Bocco Deli owner Nathan Toubia, who used to work for Lidia’s in Kansas City, also is opening an Italian restaurant. His as-of-yet-unnamed business is coming soon to the former Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe space near Central and Oliver.

Zendeli, who is Albanian, plans a traditional Italian menu for his new restaurant. He’s keeping his Valley Center restaurant, too.

Is he a glutton for punishment having two restaurants in two cities?

“Every business is punishment,” Zendeli says. “Since 1969 I’m in this punishment.”

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Melad Stephan chooses a name for his new Italian bistro: Luca Italian Kitchen

WICHITA — Melad Stephan has settled on a name for his new Italian restaurant, which will open in the middle of May where his Uptown Bistro used to be in Old Town Square.

Luca Italian Kitchen is named for Gianluca Sciagata, the restaurant’s new Italian chef, who’s coming via Aspen, Colo.

So what will happen when Sciagata one day leaves the restaurant?

“Ahhh, well, the name will stay,” Stephan says.

He adds, “I hope he’s going to be around for a while.”

Melad Stephan to open Italian restaurant in former Uptown Bistro space

UPDATED — He’s been talking about it for some time, and now he’s going to do it.

Melad Stephan is opening an Italian restaurant in his former Uptown Bistro space in Old Town Square.

He hasn’t chosen a name yet.

“This time I’m going to pick something easy for people to pronounce instead of Oeno or Sabor or anything else,” he says of two of his other Old Town businesses.

Stephan has hired Gianluca Sciagata to be his chef.

The Italy native most recently has been working in Aspen, Colo.

So why would he want to come here?

“That’s the first thing I asked him,” Stephan says.

“He said cost of living.”

Sciagata, who says he’s fluent in Italian, Spanish and English, is moving here in early May.

He has an Italian pizzaiolo license, which means he’s adept at making pizzas, and his specialty is cooking in wood-burning ovens.

Stephan is checking to see if he can incorporate a wood-burning oven into his kitchen.

Following some remodeling, he hopes to have the restaurant open by the middle of May.

Old Town’s Uptown Bistro to close April 2

WICHITA — After months of speculation — and some denials — Melad Stephan says he’s closing Uptown Bistro in Old Town Square on April 2.

“That store hasn’t lived up to my standards in food and service and sales,” he says. “I’ll take the blame for some of it. Or most of it.”

Stephan signed a new 5-year-lease last month.

“I’m not going to leave that spot. I’m going to do something with it some day.”

He’s working on a new concept, but he won’t share details yet.

Stephan grew fed up with Uptown Bistro.

“I told them the other day, if I hear one more complaint, I’m shutting the doors down,” he says. “I’m done with everybody.”

Stephan says he couldn’t be there enough to oversee and correct operations.

He also owns Sabor Latin Bar & Grille, Egg Cetera, Oeno and Press.

So has he considered perhaps limiting himself to only one or two restaurants?

“I have in the past,” Stephan says. “You know what? You do one thing     . . . you get bored with it.”

He says he could don his chef’s coat and revive Uptown Bistro on his own, but he doesn’t want to.

“Do I have the passion and the time and the effort to do it at this stage in my life? I don’t.”

He’s been in the restaurant business 25 years.

“You know, just the routine kills you. You want to advance your life.”

Look for an update on the space as soon as Stephan makes a final decision.

You don’t say

“Well, you know, can a guy make a mistake?”

Uptown Bistro owner Melad Stephan, who says he forgot to renew his liquor license and that it will be reinstated Thursday

Sabor briefly closes due to water heater issue

WICHITA — An issue with a hot water heater forced Sabor Latin Bar & Grill in Old Town Square to temporarily close Friday, but owner Melad Stephan expects to reopen Tuesday.

That will be good news to a lot of people who thought the restaurant had permanently closed and were calling Stephan about it.

“A lot of people were concerned.”