‘Wichita’ is Tampa Bay Rays code word

WICHITA — In a Fox Sports story online Thursday, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon is quoted as saying, “I never served time in Omaha, but I have in Wichita.”

Though that may not sound like a good thing, Maddon apparently meant well, and Wichita gets a great plug in the story.

Much like Peyton Manning used the word “Omaha” to signal certain plays in football, the article says Maddon is now using “Wichita” as a “code word to signal that a call should be challenged as part of Major League Baseball’s expanded replay.”

Joe Maddon, right, is using Wichita as his code name for MLB replay challenges.

Joe Maddon, right, is using Wichita as his code name for MLB replay challenges.

“Omaha and Wichita, kind of almost in a perverse way, rhyme,” Maddon said.

The article says the Wichita code is “a tip of the cap to his past.”

Maddon was involved in the National Baseball Congress World Series, which is held in Wichita, as a player and a coach and has been inducted into its Hall of Fame.

The article says baseball has a “soft spot throughout Wichita’s history,” in part due to the NBC. It quotes a few Wichitans about the code connection.

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PB&J Restaurants considers Burnt End BBQ for Wichita

WICHITA — Kansas City-based PB&J Restaurants, the company that brought YaYa’s EuroBistro and Newport Grill to Wichita, is looking to possibly bring a new concept as well.

“It’s our new barbecue concept,” says PB&J’s Paul Khoury.

Burnt End BBQ opened three weeks ago near 119th and Metcalf in Overland Park.

“It’s fast casual,” Khoury says. “It’s doing well.”

If it remains successful, he says that “just like we always do, next stop is Wichita.”

“Wichita’s a great restaurant town. People like to eat out in Wichita.”

Khoury says there are good income levels here to support restaurants.

“Look at how many restaurants that have come out of Wichita, too,” he says of chains such as Pizza Hut and Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers.

PB&J, which no longer owns the YaYa’s here, debuted its Newport Grill seafood concept here.

It’s now opening another Newport Grill on May 1 at the new Prairiefire development on West 135th Street between Nall and Lamar avenues. The restaurant will be one space down from where Wichita’s Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates is opening its new store.

Newport Grill has “just been very successful in Wichita,” Khoury says.

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Pizza Hut to open at Brush Creek

WICHITA — A new Pizza Hut is coming to the Brush Creek shopping center near 37th and Woodlawn.

It will “fill a hole,” says Kym Money, director of marketing for Pizza Hut of Southeast Kansas, which is owned by Fugate Enterprises.

“We’re always trying to improve our delivery times,” Money says. The goal is “fast, accurate and warm,” she says.

This makes Fugate’s 34th Pizza Hut in the greater Wichita area.

The restaurant will have the chain’s full line of Wing Street products.

Leisa Lowry and Cristi Howell of J.P. Weigand & Sons handled the deal.

Lowry says the center is doing well.

“We’re getting a lot of activity,” she says.

CiCi’s Pizza left Brush Creek in late May, and Lowry says there’s been quite a bit of interest in that space.

She says Inside Out Fitness, which opened there about a year ago, is doing well.

“Inside Out Fitness is doing fabulously well.”

Wichita’s LSI office to move to Ruffin Building on East Douglas

UPDATED — When LSI’s Engenio storage division sold to NetApp in 2011, one piece of the LSI business remained at the NetApp building on North Rock Road.

LSI is now moving into its own space at the Ruffin Building at 9111 E. Douglas, which is the one-time Pizza Hut headquarters.

“We’re excited to have them,” says Chris Ruffin, director of real estate for his father Phil Ruffin’s Ruffin Properties.

The 5-year lease is for 19,000 square feet of the 254,000-square-foot building.

“I have about 25,000 left,” Ruffin says of what’s still available to lease.

Marty Gilchrist and Grant Tidemann of J.P. Weigand & Sons helped him with the deal.

“They were instrumental in helping put it together,” Ruffin says.

Also helping was California-based Ham Southworth of Studley Inc. Southworth represents LSI nationally.

He says about 50 people will be moving. Southworth says most are engineers but there are sales, operations and marketing employees as well.

“They’re going to move in as soon as possible,” Ruffin says. He anticipates that will take three or four months.

Other tenants include Ally, CCH and Pure-Formance Sports & Fitness Training Center, which Ruffin says is open to the public.

He says Ruffin Properties recently spent $115,000 on landscaping at the Ruffin Building.

“And it’s going to really improve … the overall appearance to the building.”

Ruffin says the LSI lease is significant.

“It’s just a really good deal,” Ruffin says.

And not just for Ruffin Properties and LSI, he says, but for Wichita in general.

“It means that the private sector’s moving a little bit.”

Sullivan, Higdon & Sink lands Sonic account

WICHITA — “Route 44s for everyone!”

That’s how one Sullivan, Higdon & Sink employee heralded the news on Facebook that the agency landed Sonic as a client.

“It’s a great start for the new year,” says Lathi de Silva, vice president and director of brand reputation.

The agency’s Kansas City office will handle what’s called below-the-line communications for the chain’s 3,500 drive-ins nationwide. That includes in-store communications and any communications on Sonic lots. It also includes menu boards and any localized marketing for specific stores.

“We’re really building … what we call our food value chain practice,” de Silva says.

She says the agency serves clients from farm to fork on the food chain, such as Cargill and Borden Cheese.

“It’s just good for everybody to have these kinds of brands in our backyard,” says Sam Williams, SHS managing partner.

Though most of the work will be done in Kansas City, he says the Wichita office will offer support.

“Every time you win a national brand, it’s just huge when you’re a small, independent agency,” Williams says. “The thrill of winning never changes no matter how many times you’ve done it.”

He says the agency’s food connection goes back to the days it did print work for Pizza Hut when it was headquartered in Wichita.

“A farm-to-table strategy is very much in our DNA,” Williams says. “It’s been part of what we like to do for a long time.”

Dan Carney’s ‘Til We Meet Again franchise opens in Phoenix this weekend

WICHITA — Most business owners like a little publicity for their new businesses, but Dan Carney isn’t most business owners.

The Pizza Hut cofounder and some partners are opening a ’Til We Meet Again franchise in Phoenix this weekend, but Carney would rather not discuss it.

Franchise founder Nathan Smith and his business partner, Traci Smith-Cone, have been consulting with Carney on their business.

“I consult with anybody that’s really interested and calls me and asks for help,” Carney says. “This is what happened with Nathan.”

He says he’s “hopefully helped him form some ideas that have been successful.”

Carney says the two disagree on how much publicity a business should have before it’s proven successful.

An ex-employee of Carney’s wanted to open the Phoenix store, and he agreed to back him.

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Construction begins on one A-OK Center, second one to follow with more after that

WICHITA — Construction started this week at Bruce Harris’ new A-OK Center at New Leaf Plaza at 21st and Amidon, but that’s hardly the only new thing the pawn shop owner has going on.

“Wichita’s economy is starting to come back,” he says. “This shopping center in the middle of town is going to come alive again.”

The former Marina Lakes is now home to a Walmart Neighborhood Market that Harris says is contributing to those “sparks of life coming along.”

Harris also is about to begin building a new center at 410 N. West St.

It’ll be about 19,000 square feet, and the center at New Leaf will be 25,000 square feet.

“It’s going to be a huge place,” Harris says.

His centers at Harry and Oliver and Harry and Broadway are 18,000 square feet each.

The New Leaf center will be the “same thing on steroids.”

“What we’re doing is changing the way people shop,” Harris says. “We have new, used and lease to own.”

Both new centers and his store at Harry and Oliver will have a Better Living shop, which is Harris’ new lease-to-own concept.

New Leaf and West Street also each will have an A-OK Pawn Shop, One Day Jewelry and Repair, Cricket and A-OK Financial Services, which offers check cashing, payday loans, title loans and tax services.

Harris says the New Leaf center will be the most elaborate.

“I’m going to try to make it a lot of fun,” he says. “It’ll be kind of like Cabela’s.”

What he means is he plans a lot of displays and unusual touches that will “make it a really neat retail atmosphere that you’ve never seen in the pawn industry.”

There will be a dramatic 30-foot ceiling at the entrance of the center where Harris hopes to have something fun, such as a small plane or part of a helicopter hanging.

“We’re going to try to work with the Wichita motif.”

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New York Times review surprises Minh Hoa Restaurant & Cajun Seafood owner; Wichita surprises restaurant reviewer

UPDATED — Wichitans were surprised to find a New York Times review over the weekend of Minh Hoa Restaurant & Cajun Seafood. No one was more surprised than Sarah Vo, who owns the Wichita restaurant at 1556 N. Broadway.

“Everybody asks me the same question,” Vo says. “Do I have connections?”

She doesn’t, but Bonnie Bing does.

Bing, The Eagle’s recently retired fashion writer, is friends with freelance writer Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, who wrote the review and also is the author of “A Tiger in the Kitchen.”

“I went to Wichita for one reason: Bonnie Bing,” Tan says.

She and Houston Chronicle food editor Greg Morago know Bing from when she used to cover Fashion Week in New York, and for years they said they planned to visit Wichita.

“When I heard she retired this year, I thought this is finally the year,” Tan says.

Bonnie Bing (center) with friends Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan and Greg Morago.

She spent a week just “to kind of get away from New York” and work on her second book. Tan says it was an especially productive week.

“I guess whenever that book comes out I will have Wichita to thank.”

Tan still had plenty of time to tour and dine around Wichita, and she was impressed.

“This is going to sound probably bizarre,” she says, but, “I loved your grocery stores.” She was floored at how large Thai Binh is and says Wichita has some items New York doesn’t have outside of Chinatown.

Tan thinks the Wichita Art Museum is “just beautiful” and Watermark Books and Cafe, where signed copies of her book are on sale, is “darling” and she’s thrilled to see it thriving. She also enjoyed the Keeper of the Plains, the original Pizza Hut building, Riverside and Delano, where she shot pool at Club Billiards.

Sam Taylor, a poet who teaches English and creative writing at Wichita State University, is a friend of Tan’s and was one of her tour guides. (He also snapped the photo above.)

Tan loves the big sky in Kansas and all the space here, particularly because in New York “I live in a box pretty much.”

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New bakery and deli to open on North Broadway in former Pizza Hut space

WICHITA — It looks like the former owners of Kim Huong are opening a new business near where their pho restaurant used to be.

No one with the business could be reached for comment, but there’s now a sign on the former Pizza Hut building next to Little Saigon near 10th Street and North Broadway.

One sign at a drive-through for the business advertises banh mi, which is a Vietnamese sandwich, and other sandwiches as well as something called kimlan.

Other signs at the business advertise a bakery and deli.

It’s not clear when the business will open.

Keller Williams Hometown Partners broker takes over sale of commercial lots in Maize’s Wyn-Wood development

WICHITA — With the economy looking up, there’s going to be a renewed effort to sell the last 12 commercial lots at the Wyn-Wood development at 37th North and Maize Road in Maize.

“We’ve had interest, and we need somebody to harness it, go after it and get something built,” says LewJene Schneider, who started the development with her sister and brother-in-law, Leslye and Gerald Woodard.

That somebody is Thomas Lassley of Keller Williams Hometown Partners.

Lassley recently sold two lots at Wyn-Wood to the Assemblies of God Kansas District Council on behalf of Curt McNay of Caber Associates Architects and Caber Construction.

Lassley says McNay approached Schneider and the Woodards about using Lassley to “see if we can get these lots sold for you.”

“Curt’s a big help,” Lassley says. “He gets a lot of calls from people wanting to build out there.”

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