Sasnak Management closes 17 Carlos O’Kelly’s restaurants — none in Wichita — in repositioning move

UPDATED — No Wichita Carlos O’Kelly’s are affected, but Wichita-based Sasnak Management has closed 17 of its Mexican restaurants in order to reposition the company.

“It’s been gut wrenching,” says president Jon Rolph.

However, he says, “We have 22 strong locations moving forward.”

Rolph says some of the company’s restaurants across nine states were too big, some weren’t in the right places, and all weren’t performing as well as the ones the company is keeping.

“That’s where these decisions were born out of,” Rolph says. “We just decided to face the pain all at once rather than just drip, drip, drip.”

Rolph says he’s looking a decade out in his planning.

“We said, you know … let’s make the hard decisions and set this company up so we can pour our money into where we’re growing. I know it’s strange to hear that when you’re closing stores it’s part of your growth strategy … but that’s true in this scenario.”

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Sasnak Management considers potential new concept in addition to Carlos O’Kelly’s and Applebee’s

UPDATED — Sasnak Management has operated a number of concepts through the years — including current brands Carlos O’Kelly’s and Applebee’s — and now the company is considering one more.

“I would say we are continuing a conversation that we’ve had for years,” says Jon Rolph, Sasnak president.

He says there’s nothing even close to firm yet.

“We’re maybe having that conversation more seriously than in years past.”

Sasnak has 39 Carlos O’Kelly’s restaurants and 25 Applebee’s franchises in Iowa.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve done something new,” Rolph says.

He says the company has considered franchises through the years.

“We even took a run at buying a concept that we could franchise out a few years ago,” Rolph says.

“What really has our interest these days is to develop something we could grow internally and have control over.”

Rolph says with the experience and knowledge within Sasnak, that makes sense.

He says the company is “exploring it a little more intentionally.”

“Who knows where it will lead?”

Costco may be close to a Wichita deal

WICHITA — Wichita, you just may get your wish for a Costco — maybe even relatively soon — though how close the company is to a deal depends on who you talk to.

The Issaquah, Wash.-based chain, which sells bulk items similar to Sam’s Club stores, has been eyeing Wichita again.

“I came to the market to look at the market on a macro basis,” says co-founder and executive chairman Jeff Brotman. “I didn’t like anything I saw.”

Brotman says that “without disclosing our deepest, darkest secrets,” he can say that the locations he looked at didn’t fit with the way the market moves, meaning its natural trade areas.

“I have a mild interest,” Brotman says. “I’m interested in everything, right? . . . It’s just hard to focus on things that aren’t burning priorities.”

That’s not how others tell it. According to them, Costco is close enough to a deal that a 2013 opening isn’t out of the question.

Even Brotman says, “Let’s just assume it was true: I wouldn’t tell you about it. Even after we get a property under control, we don’t talk about it until after we have permits.”

In summer 2010, The Eagle conducted a poll of what businesses Wichitans would like to have in the city.

Costco narrowly lost the top choice to Cheesecake Factory.

“I was a little disappointed that we came in second,” Costco co-founder and then-CEO Jim Sinegal joked at the time. “I’ve got to be prepared to deal with these little disappointments in life.”

Costco has previously been close to at least one other deal here, and Sinegal said a finalized deal is simply a matter of the company giving Wichita some attention.

“Meaning . . . we get off our butts and go take a look,” he said. “At any point and time, we probably have 100 different sites we’re looking at.”

Sources say several sites have been under consideration over the last six months or so.

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Neighbors say goodbye to John Rolfe and hello to Jon Rolph

WICHITA — Former Go Wichita CEO John Rolfe may be heading to a new job in Houston, but there still will someone by the same name living in his northeast Wichita house.

It’s simply spelled differently.

Jon Rolph, president of Sasnak Management, is buying John Rolfe’s house.

Jon Rolph says their real estate agent handled it brilliantly.

“She’d call one John Rolfe and then hang up and call the other Jon Rolph and then hang up and call the other John Rolfe,” he says. “That had to have been a heck of a place to be.”

The two have been friends since Jon Rolph returned to Wichita a decade ago. He made a point to meet John Rolfe. In addition to becoming friends, the two shared each other’s mail through the years, and their assistants came to know each other because people would call to make or cancel plans with one of them when really they wanted the other.

When Jon Rolph heard John Rolfe is leaving to become chief operations officer for the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau, he told his friend he didn’t have to go.

“John, the town’s big enough for both of us.”

Jon Rolph is sorry to see Rolfe and his wife, Felicia, leave Wichita. He also feels for his future mailman, who will have to bring him his mail and forward John Rolfe’s.

“For the mailman to try to keep that straight … I don’t know how he’ll do it.”