Hassan Ballout to open Albero Cafe in former Bocconcini Italian Eatery space

WICHITA — A new Italian restaurant is opening in the former Bocconcini Italian Eatery space near Central and Oliver, and many Wichitans will recognize the owner.

“I’m going independent,” says Hassan Ballout, who has been at Bella Luna Cafe on East Central for a decade.

“I’m going to open my own little show.”

Ballout is Lebanese, but he says, “I love Italian food.”

He plans to call the restaurant Albero Cafe.

Ballout says “albero” means “tree” in Italian.

“My last name, Ballout, means oaks, an oak tree,” he says.

Also, Ballout says, his daughter and niece like the name, so that won over some others he was considering.

In addition to working at Bella Luna, Ballout has also worked for the Hyatt Regency Wichita and Latour Management.

“You can only grow so much with any company,” he says.

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Sugar Sister Kelli Sykes to reopen Sugar Sisters Bakery in Delano

WICHITA — The Sugar Sisters are back.

Kelli Sykes is reopening Sugar Sisters Bakery, this time in Delano, with a little behind-the-scenes help from her sisters Kristine and Katie.

The sisters closed their original Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe near Central and Oliver in January after struggling financially and with service issues for three years.

“I learned from our mistakes the first time,” Kelli Sykes says.

“My sisters kind of gave up (and) wanted to pursue their dreams, but I still wanted to do a bakery,” she says.

“In high school I went to Kapaun, and everyone called me Betty Crocker (and) Mom. They all wanted me to open a bakery. That’s kind of where my dream started.”

The new business will be in 1,200 square feet at 917 W. Douglas just down from Club Billiards.

Joey Ritchie and Leisa Lowry of J.P. Weigand & Sons handled the deal.

Sugar Sisters mainly will be a bakery but will have some lunch items as well and seating for about 10.

Sykes says her bierocks will be a staple.

“Anyone who’s had them has been instantly addicted.”

She’ll also serve chicken salad, quiche and some deli items such as cold pasta.

Since the other business closed, Sykes says she’s been doing special orders and has been receiving great feedback.

For instance, one drug rep orders about 100 cupcakes a week.

“She says every time she takes them somewhere people go crazy,” Sykes says. She says fans of the restaurant have “been going nuts since we closed.”

For those who weren’t fans or were disappointed by a previous experience, Sykes says, “I would invite them to give me another chance.”

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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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Nathan Toubia to open Italian restaurant in former Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe

WICHITA — Bocco Deli owner Nathan Toubia confirms what Have You Heard? reported last week:

He’s opening a second restaurant in July in the former Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe space near Central and Oliver.

The concept will be different than Bocco Deli, which sells soup, sandwiches and salads.

The new place will be Italian.

“This will be more full-scale pasta dishes,” Toubia says. “A lot of the dishes that I did . . . when I worked at Lidia’s in Kansas City.”

There will be fresh pasta, cannelloni and steak.

“Everything Italian.”

The new restaurant is as of yet unnamed.

“I’m not fully committed on the name,” Toubia says. “It’s a big decision.”

Bocco Deli will remain open as well with shorter hours. The new hours, which are effective now, will be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Toubia is remodeling the former Sugar Sisters space, which had a pink-and-brown color scheme and a large counter along the south wall.

He’s altering the counter area to create more seating. Currently, there are about 50 seats in the restaurant. When Toubia is through remodeling, there will be about 60.

He’s opening the kitchen area as well, and there will be a window where diners can see into the kitchen.

Toubia is a tad coy when asked about other future restaurants.

Will this be it?

“For now, yes.”

So does that mean perhaps he’d like a restaurant empire similar to his late father Antoine’s?

“Well, yeah,” Toubia says. “I think that’s what I was meant to do, so we’ll see where it takes me.”

Nathan Toubia is working on a second restaurant deal

WICHITA — It looks like Bocco Deli owner Nathan Toubia, son of the late restaurateur Antoine Toubia, is working on opening a second restaurant.

He opened Bocco Deli in the former Zoomdweebie’s Tea Bar space at 3010 E. Central in November.

His new restaurant — if the deal comes together — would be in the former Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe space.

Sugar Sisters closed its 3-year-old restaurant in January.

There’s no official word yet, but it sounds like Toubia might open a new concept — not another Bocco Deli — and a bar.

Look for news on a possible deal within a week or so.

Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe is closing; wholesale business to open in new space

WICHITA — Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe is closing Saturday, but a new Sugar Sisters Bakery will soon be opening in a new space.

The 3-year-old restaurant has struggled financially and with service issues.

“After three years, we know where our strengths and our weaknesses are,” says Patty Sykes, who runs the business with her children.

“We want to continue doing what we’re doing, but we’ve just got to do it in a way that makes money.”

Sykes hasn’t signed a deal for new space, though she’s close.

She also plans to do orders through a new website, and she’s been talking to other retail outlets about selling her baked goods through them.

That includes traditional bakery items, such as cakes and cookies, and bierocks and quiches as well.

“We’re just going to do what seems like the smart thing to do,” Sykes says.

She’s selling half the equipment in the restaurant.

Overhead was part of the restaurant’s problem, Sykes says.

“It’s a beautiful space, and we really like it there,” she says. “It just didn’t seem to make sense.”

The bakery does well, Sykes says, so she thinks the new business will, too.

“It’s really more of a cost-cutting measure just so we can stay alive and competitive.”

Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe pays substantial amount of loan, refinances

WICHITA — It’s not quite the sweet smell of success just yet for Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe, but it looks like the restaurant’s legal troubles may be over.

“We’ve got that all worked out,” says Patty Sykes, who owns the restaurant with her family.

In June, Have You Heard? reported that the business, which is near Central and Oliver, defaulted on a $165,000 SBA loan. Citizens Bank of Kansas, which administered the loan, filed a lawsuit against the restaurant to collect the money.

“We just paid off the majority of it and just refinanced,” Sykes says.

According to court documents, Sugar Sisters recently paid more than $90,000 and has $33,415 left to pay on the loan.

Sykes says the restaurant is now making some changes in order to be more competitive.

“We’re just trying to do things that are just going to . . . obviously increase sales and customer loyalty,” Sykes says.

“We’re going to focus . . . less on the cafe side, more on the bakery side.”

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Citizens Bank of Kansas sues Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe for defaulting on SBA loan

WICHITA — Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe has defaulted on a $165,000 SBA loan, and the future of the restaurant is in question.

Citizens Bank of Kansas, which administered the loan, has filed a lawsuit against the restaurant to collect the money.

Sisters Kristine, Katie and Kelli Sykes opened the business near Central and Oliver with their mother, Patty Sykes, in spring 2008.

Court documents show they still owe more than $125,000 on their note.

“We got behind on the loan,” Katie Sykes says. “We got, like, two weeks behind pretty much.”

She adds, “There was a little bit of . . . lack of communication.”

Sykes won’t elaborate.

She says everything has been taken care of.

“Since it’s been undone, there’s really nothing to talk about,” Sykes says.

That’s not what court documents show.

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Caffe Posto to close for good after Sunday

WICHITA — A challenging economy and increased competition is forcing Caffe Posto to close less than two years after opening near Douglas and Oliver.

“The economy is the biggest part,” co-owner Kay Conklin says.

She and her husband, Cory, and Jacob Liquor Exchange wine director Jamie Stratton opened Caffe Posto in March 2008.

Conklin says not long after that, new competitors like Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe and the Donut Whole opened nearby.

“Certainly, they’re all close enough that it affects us,” Conklin says.

Caffe Posto will have normal hours through Saturday. Sunday, it will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with reduced prices on coffee and gelato to say thanks and good-bye to customers.

“We know that something great will come into the neighborhood,” Conklin says. “We’re working with our landlord to try and find someone.”

For now, she says, they’re trying to “exit as gracefully as possible.”

The plan is to “just keep our heads up and smiles on until . . . Sunday.”

Muse-E-Yum! owner gets WISE

museWichita may get WISE again.

In the ’80s, Wichita had a community development group by that name.

Now, Muse-E-Yum! owner Jan Green is thinking of forming a group called Women’s Initiative for Successful Enterprise.

Green, whose shop is at 130 N. Rock Road, isn’t content to sit at her store hoping more business comes through the door.

Instead, she’s inviting other female small business owners to meet with her Tuesday at 8 a.m. at Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe to discuss ways to promote, strengthen and grow their businesses.

Green has a particular idea that she’d like to share with the group for jointly promoting their businesses, but she says, “I also want it to be a forum to do some brainstorming and some trading of ideas.”

While she’s not exactly trying to exclude men, Green says, “I just think that women have a way of working together.”

If you’re interested in attending, call Green at (316) 269-5600 by noon on Monday.