Echo Hills developer Mike Loveland tells Park City chamber he’ll have “something of significance” to announce soon

WICHITA — Mike Loveland is quiet to the point of silent about his deals, and it wasn’t much different Wednesday when he agreed to speak to the Park City Chamber of Commerce about his Echo Hills project.

“You said a whole bunch of stuff without saying anything,” one attendee said to Loveland on his way out the door.

Loveland did share one little-known detail about the 80-acre project northwest of Interstate 135 and 53rd Street North in Park City.

“I was looking for a site for a nighttime golf course,” he said of how he first started looking at the land around 2000.

He said it then occurred to him what an incredible retail site it would make. Loveland says it took a while, but he closed on the land in 2010, which he says wasn’t a great time to start attracting interest.

“I wish I could have made it go faster,” he said.

“In ’12 they started talking again,” he said of potential retail tenants.

Loveland said he’d been close to a big deal for an anchor tenant.

“I‘m not saying who it was,” he said. But he added that “Cabela’s beat ’em to the punch” when it announced it would open at Regency Lakes in Wichita.

Loveland said he’s now close on another possible anchor tenant, which he thinks he has an almost 90 percent chance of landing, along with another one that he thinks is a 50-50 chance.

“Those anchors have such an effect,” he said of attracting smaller tenants.

He expects to announce “something of significance” within a month.

“We’re really close. I wish I could tell you who they are.”

Loveland said attracting major retailers to that area is a battle similar to what Derby once faced.

“You had to beg people to come down to Derby, Kansas,” he said.

That, of course, changed in a big way with retailers such as Lowe’s, Target and Kohl’s opening there.

“That’s what I’m in hopes of here in Echo Hills,” Loveland said.

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Second west-side Emperor’s Japanese Grill to open near Maple and Ridge

WICHITA — A new Emperor’s Japanese Grill is coming to the west side, and the original is staying put as well.

The latest Emperor’s will open in front of the Target near Maple and Ridge.

“We’re hoping early June,” says co-owner Nel Son.

The first Emperor’s opened almost eight years ago near 21st and Ridge. The second opened three years ago on the east side near Central and Greenwich.

The third restaurant will seat about 55.

Son says he has no other locations planned for now.

Derby Mattress Hub to move to Derby Marketplace and expand

WICHITA — The Derby Mattress Hub is moving to the Derby Marketplace at North Rock Road and Tall Tree Road.

“We just think the growth of Derby is fantastic,” says Ryan Baty, who founded the Wichita company with Mark Barrientos in 2008. “There’s a lot of retail opportunities out of that new development.”

The current store, which licensee Sharon Kinney calls an outlet store, is at 105 S. Baltimore Ave.

The new store, which will open by Memorial Day, will be in 4,000 square feet in front of Target in the same center where Capitol Federal and Cox Communications are.

Kinney likely will still be involved with the new Mattress Hub, but it will now be a corporate store.

“Our goal is we really want to maximize … the mattress business in Derby,” Baty says. “If we brought the corporate store down there with the corporate concept … I think Derby would be better served.”

He says that means a “very upscale, very spacious” store.

“We also have further expansion into Kansas City that’s happening and in southwest Missouri,” Baty says.

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Kobe Steak House of Japan in Derby has closed, but Starbucks and Braum’s are opening, possibly followed by Chipotle

WICHITA — Derby’s loss is going to be Wichita’s gain.

Kobe Steak House of Japan, which opened three years ago in the former Tokyo Steakhouse space at 1221 N. Rock Road in Derby, closed after business March 2.

Jim Hamlin, who owns the restaurant with Jim West, says they plan to reopen in Wichita.

They already have a Kobe at 21st and Maize Road. Hamlin won’t say where the new one will be.

“I’ll tell you that a little later.”

Hamlin says the Derby Kobe was profitable, but not enough.

“We hadn’t been as successful there as we’d like to be.”

He says there were issues with the building, including too much square footage for the number of diners it could seat, and a too-small parking lot.

“It just had a number of barriers to growing down there,” Hamlin says. “It takes a lot of population to have a specialty restaurant.”

It’s not all bad dining news for Derby, though.

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Fair’s Shoe Store to close by March

WICHITA — One of the city’s oldest retail outlets is closing.

Fair’s Shoe Store in the Indian Hills shopping center at 13th and Meridian will go out of business by March.

“It has, unfortunately, been less than profitable for us over the last four years,” says general manager Andy Warren.

He says his family had planned to close Fair’s, which he thinks has been in business since the 1940s, in 2010 when it opened a New Balance and a Heads shoe store in the former Blockbuster space at 10231 W. 21st St. near Maize Road.

The family decided to keep Fair’s open and continue selling comfort shoes at a more moderate price.

“It just turned out to be a strategy that didn’t work,” Warren says.

He thinks there’s still a market for moderately priced comfort shoes.

“It’s probably being served at places like Famous Footwear, Shoe Carnival, Target and Walmart.”

Warren says the family’s other four stores are doing fine.

“The one out west has been kind of a bumpy road since they did the road construction over the summer, but it’s picking up where it left off.”

Domino’s Pizza franchisees expand in Wichita, Derby and Hutchinson

WICHITA — Domino’s Pizza franchisees Mike and Stacia McKnight, who own Gusto LLC, are expanding in several ways.

Last week, they opened a Derby location in the strip center in front of Target at Derby Marketplace at 71st South and Rock Road. That’s the same center as the Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers.

Late this month, the McKnights are opening another location in Wichita in the same center as Yamasa, which is on the west side of Hillside just south of Central.

This makes six restaurants for the couple in the Wichita area.

Also late this month, the McKnights are opening a Hutchinson Domino’s at 2500 N. Main.

They also own three Domino’s sites in Topeka and seven in Kansas City with one more on the way yet this year.

Mike McKnight says he and his wife likely will open two more locations in Wichita in the second and third quarters of next year. They’re looking to the far east and far west of the greater Wichita area.

“It just depends when we find the locations we like.”

Knork Flatware expands Bed Bath & Beyond presence to 650 stores

WICHITA — Newton-based Knork Flatware has landed a deal to sell its products in 650 Bed Bath & Beyond stores.

“It’s obviously going to impact sales substantially for us,” Knork president Tom Carson says. “It’s probably our largest retail account for a box store.”

The company began working with the chain in 2008.

“Bed Bath & Beyond started as a test,” says Knork vice president of marketing Lacy Simon.

Initially, the flatware that features its signature knife and fork in one utensil — a Knork — was in only the Wichita Bed Bath & Beyond stores.

“It’s just built from there,” Simon says. “The product sold very well.”

The number grew to 200 before jumping to 650, though Carson notes there are many more Bed Bath & Beyond stores than that, and he’d like to be in all of them. Knork is on the chain’s bridal registry as well.

“That’s done very well for us, too,” Carson says.

“I like to get Knork anywhere there’s heavy bridal,” Simon says.

There are 200 Dillard’s stores that sell Knork.

“Right now, Dillard’s is exploring the opportunities to expand, and that might be a possibility for spring 2013,” Simon says. “Macy’s is looking at a test for next fall.”

Target and Kohl’s also carry Knork online but not in their stores. Simon says Knork’s extensive manufacturing process makes it more expensive than other flatware lines sold in those stores.

There are now about 50 Knork products and $2 million in annual sales for the company, which started in 2004 with one product that Wichita resident Mike Miller created.

“It was kind of gadgetry,” Carson says. “A fork that cuts like a knife.”

The issue was “just overcoming some of the consumer skeptics of the new kind of unfamiliar product,” Simon says.

“It was quite a struggle at the beginning.”

It sometimes still is.

“It is truly such an experiential product,” Simon says. She says the goal is always to put the product into someone’s hands.

“You’ve really got to put it in your hands to experience the functionality of it,” Carson says.

Starting out, Carson says the company sold direct to other businesses.

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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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Cake Face Bake Shop adds truck, sandwiches to business

WICHITA — Another new food truck is going to debut this weekend.

Summer Schoenhals already owns Cake Face Bake Shop, which she runs from a licensed kitchen in her home, and now she’s going to start selling baked goods and other items from a truck, too.

For a long time, Schoenhals says she “piddled around” making cakes and cupcakes for friends and family.

“Everybody kept telling me to start a business,” she says.

In January, she started one in the kitchen of her home. The business grew so quickly, she had to add a commercial kitchen.

In March, Schoenhals says she was approached about selling out of Absolute Vintage Boutique on Maple across from Target.

Saturday at the Automobilia car show, she’ll debut the truck, from which she’ll sell cakes, cookies, cupcakes, novelty baked items and a line of gourmet sandwiches using Big Rick’s barbecue sauce.

Big Rick’s is located at 400 S. Commerce St., and Schoenhals says she’s going to be able to use the company’s parking lot to sell from the truck during Final Friday and before events at the nearby Intrust Bank Arena.

Schoenhals also is a nurse, but she’s going to cut back to one day a week to help her Cake Face business grow. She says she’s also going to pursue corporate and event catering.

Schoenhals’ husband, David, recently was laid off, so he’s going to work with Cake Face, too.

“The timing was actually great,” Schoenhals says. “This is going to be our new source of income, so we’re pretty excited to get going on it.”

Absolute Vintage Boutique to open in former Brown’s Botanicals space

Erin Duke (from left) and sisters Emily Lee and Amy Gilman, who are opening Absolute Vintage Boutique this week.

WICHITA — When first we contacted Erin Duke weeks ago about opening a retail shop in the former Brown’s Botanicals space on Maple across from Target, she asked if we could wait to report it until she had a more firm opening date.

Customers, however, did not wait.

They saw her Absolute Vintage Boutique sign and came on in.

“Women want to shop,” Duke says. “You can’t stop them.”

Duke and her husband, Brian, are opening the shop with sisters Emily Lee and Amy Gilman, who already have been selling items through Craigslist as Sisters of the Wild West.

Absolute Vintage will sell a mix of vintage, new and consignment items, including furniture, housewares, art, clothing and jewelry.

“I would say a little of everything,” Erin Duke says. “We look for pieces that are unique.”

A lot of the furniture items will be repainted, repurposed or, as Duke likes to say, “reimagined.”

They’ll use chalk paint, which creates a vintage look, and likely will sell the popular paint — not to be confused with chalkboard paint — as well.

Lee and Gillman are west-siders. The Dukes live on the east side but weren’t hesitant about having a west-side shop, in part since it’s just off of Kellogg and easily accessible from anywhere.

“We just couldn’t pass up this darling location,” Duke says.

She says it’s been a floral shop for the last half century or so.

One former greenhouse area will have its own name — Amped Hobbies — and will be especially geared to men with a lot of items related to remote-controlled hobbies.

It also will feature what Brian Duke calls “mentiques.”

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