Longtime roaster returns to Spice Merchant

roasterWICHITA — The more than 40-year-old coffee roaster that used to be the Spice Merchant’s mainstay is back in the store, which is on East Douglas about four blocks east of Washington.

Three years ago, owner Bob Boewe purchased a new, more environmentally friendly roaster from the U.S. Roaster Corp. in Oklahoma City. The company then tried to sell his old roaster.

“They could never really get a buyer,” Boewe says.

So he had the company refurbish and modernize it so he could use it as a backup at the store.

Boewe says his new roaster had an issue once, and he had to go a week and a half without it.

“We prevailed on a friend of ours in Oklahoma City who’s a roaster,” he says.

Boewe says he’d prefer to have his own backup because the new roaster has so many intricate parts.

“If one little part of that dies, you’re just dead in the water,” he says. “It could happen to anybody. It’s just a fact of life.”

The only way Boewe says a store such as his should be without a backup is if “the guy who built it lives next door to you.”

He says the refurbished roaster is at the store and waiting to be hooked up.

“We now have two beautiful red roasters on the floor.”

Bill Jackson and six employees purchase Domestic Laundry building on Douglas

Bill Jackson, one of the new owners of the Domestic Laundry building, says of this vintage photo of the building and all its delivery trucks, "Yep, the laundry business must have been very good back then. I guess there probably wasn't a washer and dryer in every home or maybe not even in hotels."

WICHITA — Wichita’s well-known Domestic Laundry building at 1425 E. Douglas has a new owner.

“We’ve all loved that building for a long time,” says Bill Jackson, Transitions Group owner, of himself and six employees who bought the building.

Jackson has been leasing space in the building for his ACI Design Studio for the last couple of years.

“A group of my employees who have been with me for a long time — some of them up to 25 years — and myself formed a little LLC and bought it.”

DL 1425, which stands for Domestic Laundry and the building’s address, includes Karen Cundiff, whom Jackson describes as an instrumental player in the Douglas Design District; Brent Dorrah, who runs ACI; Barney Lehnherr; Brendan Hogan; and Jackson’s children Piper Ayala and Josh Jackson.

Bill Jackson says they’d hoped to have another name for their LLC, but “every interesting, fun name was taken.”

Jackson says the Domestic Laundry building is a key piece of Douglas and his group will do what it can to improve its stature.

“That part of East Douglas was always known for its neon signage,” he says.

He points to GLMV Architecture’s prominent new sign just down the street and says his group would like to do something similar.

Jackson says he has pictures of the “cool signage” from the building’s early history and may use that for inspiration.

“We were thinking about maybe looking into the possibility of maybe redesigning the sign that’s up there now.”

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You don’t say

“We’re getting there.”

Spice Merchant owner Bob Boewe, who plans a soft opening of his new Eli and Alan Teas For All Tastes Sept. 7 and a grand opening next week

Mayor Carl Brewer to sell barbecue sauces

WICHITA — Before he was known as a politician, Mayor Carl Brewer was known for his barbecue.

He and his wife, Cathy, have entered barbecue competitions since the 1990s and have been perfecting their sauces since then. Now, they’re almost ready to start selling them.

“We have some businesses that have agreed to sell them,” Brewer says. He says they’re businesses he buys barbecue supplies from.

“I don’t think they’re ready for me to say who they are yet.”

One is the Spice Merchant, where the Brewers will be kicking off sales with some barbecue samples on Sept. 22.

There are three sauces the Brewers will sell under the Brewer’s Best label. There’s a mild sauce, a sweet one and a hot sauce.

“I like the mild,” the mayor says. He says it’s sweet and tangy. “All these different flavors will capture you as you’re eating it.”

As the Brewers traveled the country for competitions, they learned the differences between northern and southern sauces.

“We just kept going back and forth, asking people, ‘What is it you like about it? What is it you don’t like about it?’” Carl Brewer says.

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Spice Merchant gets a new coffee roaster

WICHITA — A fire in the Spice Merchant’s longtime coffee roaster last year has led to a new roaster this year.

“Since that happened, we . . . made a decision to order a new roaster that is modern and up to date,” says Bob Boewe, who owns the store with his wife, Sue.

The new roaster, custom manufactured by the U.S. Roaster Corp. in Oklahoma City, is supposed to arrive today.

The Spice Merchant’s other roaster is about four decades old. Before being at the store downtown on East Douglas, it had been at a coffee roasting company in Barcelona, Spain.

Coffee residue had gotten built up in the exhaust venting.

“It got hot enough that it ignited,” Boewe says.

“It’s one of those things somewhere in the back of your brain (that) says you ought to clean the flue,” he says. “That’s what we hadn’t done. Luckily we were back in business the next day and had the roaster running the day after that.”

Boewe says the new roaster is environmentally friendly because it recycles the wasted hot air that goes through the roaster and cleans it up by getting rid of the smoke in it.

“Instead of having to reheat the air from room temperature, it takes that hot air that you already have and runs it back through the roasting chamber,” he says. “All that hot air now just goes up the chimney, so to speak.

“It’ll save us on utilities.”

That’s a good thing, Boewe says, because “it’s quite an investment for us.”

He says the roaster is “very programmable” and makes great coffee.

“It just does a beautiful job.”

Boewe taste-tested it in Oklahoma.

Customers can have their first tastes Friday if all goes well.

“We’re hoping.”

La Chinita owner explores new concept with a second restaurant

UPDATED — La Chinita Mexican Restaurant remains a favorite of many longtime Wichitans after almost 35 years in business, but owner Lolly Hernandez says it’s time for a change.

“We have a good customer base, but you know . . . I guess sometimes you need to change with the times.”

Hernandez is exploring a second restaurant — tentatively called Blue Agave — in the former Gorges Motor space at 1210 E. Douglas near the Spice Merchant.

“This would be a whole different concept,” Hernandez says. “I think we just need to step up . . . our strategies.”

La Chinita most likely will remain at 1451 N. Broadway, though Hernandez says there’s “just a small consideration as far as selling the building, but probably not.”

If the Blue Agave deal happens — and that’s a big if right now because Hernandez hasn’t tried to get financing together — it’s more likely that La Chinita simply would close for Monday and Tuesday dinners to allow Hernandez more time for the new restaurant.

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