Lou Heldman named acting director for Center for Entrepreneurship; Tim Pett still on administrative leave

WICHITA — It seems Lou Heldman is Wichita State University’s go-to guy for help on an interim basis.

Heldman, who has been interim director of the Elliott School of Communication, is going to be WSU’s acting director for the Center for Entrepreneurship.

Former center director Tim Pett, who also is a professor and the W. Frank Barton Distinguished Chair, was placed on administrative leave for undisclosed reasons several weeks ago.

WSU spokesman Joe Kleinsasser says Pett remains on leave.

There were indications the school was going to be starting a search for a permanent replacement for Pett, but Keith Pickus, WSU’s interim provost and a history professor, says that’s not the case.

“The center has been without a director now for a number of weeks,” he says.

“Until that situation is resolved, we aren’t making any other steps than putting somebody in charge of the center,” Pickus says. “I guarantee you there has been no decision on whether to do a search.”

He says any indications otherwise were a miscommunication.

Pickus says he can’t discuss Pett’s situation because it’s a personnel matter.

Heldman was president and publisher of The Wichita Eagle from 2002 to 2007. He then became WSU’s Distinguished Senior Fellow in Media Management and Journalism.

Cindy Claycomb, who is interim dean of the W. Frank Barton School of Business, says she’s pleased Heldman was selected as acting director.

“We’re thrilled that he’s going to join us,” Claycomb says. “Lou will do a great job.”

Midwest Kia franchise may move to the southeast corner of Kellogg and Tyler

UPDATED — When Ford dealer Les Eck announced he was buying Wichita’s Midwest Kia franchise this summer, he said the dealership would “stay at its current location for now.”

“We’ll be doing something new in the future, the next year,” he said.

It looks like that time may be now.

The Oct. 4 agenda for the area planning board has a platting item for something called the KIA addition at the southeast corner of Kellogg and Tyler. The property is 6.71 acres.

The Kia dealership currently is at 6401 E. Kellogg, just across and a few blocks west of Eck’s Rusty Eck Ford at 7310 E. Kellogg.

When Steven Auto Group announced it was selling the Kia dealership to Eck, Steven CEO Harold Johnson told The Eagle his company was interested in selling because Kia wanted a new facility, possibly at a different location.

“After doing (a new) Toyota building, and Infiniti and Volkswagen before that, we said, ‘Let somebody else have that fun.’”

No one is commenting yet about possible new Kia space. We’ll keep you posted.

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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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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You don’t say

“Many people ask me how you replace Bonnie. The answer is, you don’t.”

Wichita Eagle editor Sherry Chisenhall on the “one-and-only” Bonnie Bing, whose last full day at the paper where she’s worked since 1980 is Thursday

Walmart confirms it will move and double the size of its Augusta store

WICHITA — In October 2010, Have You Heard? first reported a new, larger Walmart would be coming to Augusta. The Arkansas retailer didn’t have a comment at the time. It now confirms the store.

In an e-mailed response to an inquiry from The Eagle, spokesman Ryan Irsik said the company will be moving its 47,000-square-foot store at 1618 Ohio St. to 719 W. 7th Ave., which is near U.S. 54 and Lulu Street.

The new store will be a Walmart Supercenter with 120,000 square feet.

In addition to having more general merchandise, Irsik says the store will have more food as well, including a bakery, deli and fresh produce section. There also will be an expanded garden center.

Walmart currently employs 75 people at its Augusta store. The new one will have about 135 workers.

Look for the new store to open in early summer 2013.

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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Gaslamp Grille & Lounge future is uncertain

UPDATED — The fate of the Gaslamp Grille & Lounge has been in flux for a while, but its future became even more puzzling on Friday.

That’s when Gaslamp general manager Dave Jewett started letting people know the restaurant will be closing. Specifically, he was alerting musical acts that were scheduled to appear this weekend and on future dates.

Musicians who have played at the bar and restaurant, which is in the former Shadow space near Central and Rock, were informed they won’t be needed anymore.

Neither Jewett nor owner Whitney VinZant returned calls for comment. Nor did anyone answer or return a voicemail left at the restaurant, nor did Gaslamp’s marketing director return a call.

After Have You Heard? posted something online to say the restaurant would be closing, Jewett e-mailed to say it was open and would not be closing after business Friday.

When asked, via e-mail, why he was telling people the business is closing, Jewett didn’t reply.

Prior to the Gaslamp’s late 2010 opening, VinZant told The Eagle: “It’s going to be surprising to a lot of people. When we open, they’re going to see a side of dining they haven’t seen in Wichita.”

The business has struggled, though.

Earlier this month, Have You Heard? reported that VinZant was in talks to possibly change the restaurant’s concept, which has been focused on more upscale dining. A dueling piano bar seemed to be in the running.

Whether that’s still a possibility or whether VinZant may do something else in the space isn’t clear.

We’ll keep you posted.


You don’t say

“I’m just glad they can’t see my transcript.”

WSU alum and Wichita Eagle writer Bonnie Bing, who is receiving the President’s Medal Sunday

Eustaquio Abay II files a lawsuit against Abay Neuroscience Center, the practice he founded and named for his parents

Eustaquio Abay II in a 2008 file photo.

UPDATED — Physician Eustaquio Abay II has filed a lawsuit against Abay Neuroscience Center, the practice he founded in 1986 and renamed in 1996 in honor of his parents.

“Dr. Abay built the practice, but the other members forced him out by reducing his compensation wrongfully,” says Abay’s attorney, Jay Fowler of Foulston Siefkin.

“The practical effect is the other physicians made a lot more money, and Dr. Abay made next to nothing.”

Abay, who filed his lawsuit in Sedgwick County District Court last week, left the practice to start a new one in June.

“We did not force him out of the practice,” says Jeff Spahn, a Martin Pringle attorney representing the remaining partners at Abay Neuroscience Center.

“That was his decision to leave the practice.”

Spahn says Abay was paid what he was owed.

“I don’t know what Jay’s definition of nothing is, but he was paid a significant amount of money, and Jay knows better than that,” Spahn says. “At least I would regard it as a significant amount of money.”

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