Food For Thought to close after 42 years

UPDATED — More than four decades after opening, Food For Thought is closing.

“It probably should have been done before now,” owner Melinda Foley says. “The competition in town is just getting tougher and tougher.”

Foley says her store is Wichita’s only full-service independent natural foods market left in the area.

She says big-box competitors are an issue. The Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage chain opened in 2011.

“We kind of started seeing our numbers slip then,” Foley says. “And Bread and Circus is looming next year.”

That’s the Whole Foods chain that’s opening at the Waterfront.

“We are in a location where not as many people are shopping in this area as used to be,” Foley says.

The store has been at 2929 E. Central for the last 20 of its 42 years in business.

“It’s time for us to go out gracefully.”

The store has started a liquidation sale. Foley expects to close within a month.

“There’s going to be some awesome people out there looking for employment,” she says.

Foley says she didn’t try to sell the store.

“We just felt like it was time to just let it go,” she says. “We have so enjoyed serving this community, and we have made so many friends with our customers. That’s going to be really sad to let go.”

 

 

Whole Foods Market to open in Wichita at the new Waterfront Plaza

UPDATED — A new phase of the Waterfront development will be the home of Whole Foods Market when it arrives in Wichita next year.

“It’s very big for us,” said Stephen Clark II, who is managing the project, of landing the organic and natural food chain.

“It could be beneficial for the whole market,” Clark said. He said retailers such as Whole Foods Market and the new Cabela’s that entered the market earlier this year attract other big names.

“The more of that you can get, the more interest there is from others.”

Clark’s father, Steve Clark, and fellow Waterfront developer Johnny Stevens are building a new 70,000-square-foot retail center called Waterfront Plaza on the northwest corner of 13th and Webb Road, which Stephen Clark says is part of the larger Waterfront development on the northeast corner.

Whole Foods will anchor the development with a 30,000-square-foot store that Clark said will open in November 2013.

“We just feel that it’s really going to pair well with the community,” said Ben Friedland, executive marketing coordinator of the Rocky Mountain region for Whole Foods Market.

“One of the things that we’re most excited about is we’re a very decentralized organization, which allows us to build stores that are very specific to the communities in which they live,” he said. He said the chain partners with local producers who meet Whole Foods Market standards to sell their items so the store is “going to be endemic to the community, and it’s going to take on its local flair and its local flavor.”

“We’re just really excited about the abundance of local products available.”

Friedland said the Austin-based chain, which has 325 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, has been looking at Wichita for a couple of years.

“It’s another feather in the cap of Wichita for bringing the big names that wouldn’t touch us two to five years ago,” said Don Piros of Landmark Commercial Real Estate. “It’s the domino effect. You bring one or two here, and the rest think, geez, maybe we should be here.”

Piros is handling leasing at the remaining 40,000 square feet at Waterfront Plaza in addition to retail and office leasing within the larger Waterfront area east of Webb Road. That includes a new 4.3 acre area under development north of Chester’s Chophouse & Wine Bar where two new office buildings are slated to be under construction soon.

Piros said he’s close on a few potential Waterfront Plaza tenants. Clark said landing Whole Foods helps.

“People want to be next to Whole Foods, and we expect a lot more activity out there.”

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Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage to construct community room

WICHITA — Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage has filed a building permit to do $120,000 in construction at its store at 1715 N. Rock Road, which opened last fall.

“It’s going to be a community space,” says Nancy Flynn, director of marketing for the Colorado-based chain.

“It is going to be, of course, for our customers to enjoy, to come in and relax.”

The store already has a meeting room, which groups can rent and nonprofits generally can use for free.

The community room has a few different purposes, Flynn says.

She says it will have free WiFi, coffee and tea and comfortable seating that encourages customers to drop by. Also, it will be plumbed to eventually have a demo kitchen. In the meantime, appliances and other things necessary for food demonstrations can be brought in.

Flynn says once the kitchen is installed, the store will offer cooking classes. Local chefs can also use the space for demonstrations, she says.

“We have the ability to really make it a fun event for them to do that,” Flynn says. “We will work with people. We really want them to come and enjoy this space.”

The store will offer nutrition classes as well, such as classes on living a gluten-free or dairy-free lifestyle.

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New Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage store comes full circle with its Wichita roots

WICHITA — The new Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage has a Wichita connection dating to the 1800s, but even co-president Kemper Isely wasn’t fully aware of it until the Colorado chain started preparing to open here.

The store opens the day before Thanksgiving in the former Borders Books space at 1715 N. Rock Road.

Isely’s parents, Philip and Margaret Isely, started the chain as a regional grocery in 1955. Philip Isely is a Montezuma, Kan., native. Kemper Isely knew that, but he didn’t realize his great uncle William Henry Isely’s importance to Wichita State University.

At the April 1973 dedication of Isely Lane at WSU, then-president Clark Ahlberg praised Isely and Nathan Morrison, who was president of Fairmount Institute, which became Fairmount College – the forerunner of WSU.

“Were it not for Dean Isely and for his colleague, President Morrison, who came in the following year, we might not now be enjoying this beautiful campus with its enduring and encompassing educational advantages and facilities,” Ahlberg said, according to a transcript of his speech.

Henry Isely

The transcript says Isely began his career at Fairmount in 1894 as a history and political science teacher. He became principal within a month.

“The story is told that immediately following his arrival in Wichita with his wife and youngster, Merrill, he heard that Fairmount Institute … was to be closed,” Ahlberg said. “With Merrill in his arms, he pleaded with the trustees to preserve Fairmount.”

Ahlberg said Isely was “the stabilizing force and the academic leader at the college.”

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Hey, what’s going on there . . . ?

UPDATED — There are several pockets of activity that have readers wondering what’s going on. Here’s an update — or, in some cases, a reminder.

– There’s more construction happening near where the new LongHorn Steakhouse has been built in front of the Lowe’s near 29th and Maize, but it’s not for another restaurant or shop.

It’s simply an extra parking lot behind the steak house, which will be opening soon.

– Colorado-based Natural Grocers By Vitamin Cottage is close to opening in the former Borders Books space at 1715 N. Rock Road.

The grocery will open Nov. 23. The chain’s first Kansas store opened Nov. 11, 2010, in Lawrence.

The store sells organic produce, gluten-free products and offers nutritional education and counseling.

What shoppers won’t find is anything with high-fructose corn syrup, sugar substitutes or hydrogenated oils, among other things, which — as a spokeswoman puts it— makes studying labels a little easier.

Right at Home, which offers in-home care and assistance, has moved just down from where it’s been in the shopping center on the northwest corner of 21st and Ridge.

The business this week moved into the former Ruthie’s Hallmark space, which offers more room.

– Finally, except for Chick-fil-A questions, the most popular question we’ve heard lately is, “What’s that building by the McDonald’s at 21st and Rock?”

Laham Development is building a new retail center at Tallgrass Plaza, which is at the northeast corner of 21st and Rock Road where a BP filling station used to be.

Vitamin Shoppe is the first announced tenant for the 6,200-square-foot center. Look for an announcement on the second tenant soon.

Natural Grocers By Vitamin Cottage will be a full-scale grocery store with a deli

UPDATED — The new Natural Grocers By Vitamin Cottage that’s coming to the former Borders Books space at 1715 N. Rock Road will be a complete grocery store in addition to a vitamin shop.

“A great many of our customers do just that — they only shop for groceries at our stores,” says co-president Kemper Isely.

“We offer our products at everyday affordable pricing.”

The Denver-area family business started in 1955. When it opens here Dec. 13, the Wichita store will be the company’s 51st.

The chain used to be called Vitamin Cottage.

“Since we sell more groceries, we changed our name,” Isely says.

He says the company sells only 100 percent organically grown produce and fresh and frozen meat that is hormone and antibiotic free. Also, he says, there’s a line of frozen natural foods in addition to 100 percent organic produce and bulk items.

“We do it a little bit differently,” Isely says of the bulk items.

They’re prepackage to avoid contamination, he says.

“We also refrigerate all our nuts and seeds and flours that can go rancid.”

The store will be 24,000 square feet. About 1,500 of that will be for a seminar room, which Isely says nonprofits can use for free.

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Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage coming to the former Borders Books space

UPDATED — Colorado-based Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage has signed a 10-year lease for the former Borders Books space at 1715 N. Rock Road.

The chain, which is in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wyoming, has been in business since 1955. It has new stores coming to Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Scott Harper of Landmark Commercial Real Estate handled the deal locally.

Look for more information soon.