’Til We Meet Again closes at Towne West Square; company still in business

UPDATED – It’s a reluctant Nathan Smith who shares ’Til We Meet Again’s latest news.

“I don’t want to tell you the news,” Smith says.

He and business partner Traci Smith-Cone have closed their store at Towne West Square, though they still have three stores elsewhere and plan to add more to sell custom caskets, urns and memorials.

“We are looking to continue to grow and all of that stuff, it’s just the Wichita market … everything slowed down, especially after Christmas,” Smith says.

“The Wichita store, like, just fell off the face of the planet. So we had to make some decisions pretty quick.”

Smith says he and Smith-Cone are now trying to determine if Towne West was the issue or if it’s Wichita in general.

“The traffic’s just not there in that mall,” Smith says. “The mall’s lost a lot of people, and they’re continuing to lose more people.”

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New Towne West CUP almost finalized; Towne East won’t pursue one ‘at this time’

WICHITA — It looks like Simon Property Group’s application for an amendment to the community unit plan for Towne West Square is all but finalized, and nothing is happening with the one for Towne East Square.

Simon’s applications were to hold outdoor events at both malls – that could be events such as special sales or carnivals – but neighbors near Towne East fought it.

Greenhouse sales are now scheduled at both malls for April and May, and a carnival is scheduled to start at Towne West on May 8.

Previous mall management said the amendment was approved at Towne West, but that’s not the case.

“From what we understand, we just needed to submit updated drawings, and we were good to go at Towne West,” says Mis Gaston, the mall’s new general manger. “They haven’t told us anything otherwise. So hopefully that gets us over the hump.”

Since the applications were filed, management has changed at both malls.

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You don’t say

“Put a sparkle in your smile with Grillz here at Towne West Jewelers.”

– A tweet from Towne West Square promoting the sparkly caps that can be worn over teeth

’Til We Meet Again opens in Amarillo, Texas

UPDATED — ’Til We Meet Again, the casket store at Towne West Square that’s turning into a national chain, is now in another new market with a new focus.

“This one officially makes number four,” Traci Smith-Cone says of a new store in Westgate Mall in Amarillo.

Smith-Cone, who started the concept with Nathan Smith in 2010, says that mall is the only one in a 125-mile radius, and it’s in a great spot.

“Amarillo is often referred to as the crossroads of the United States,” she says.

Until now, the chain’s concept has been to specialize in custom caskets and urns, but memorial products are an increased focus of the business.

“Grief isn’t just a one-time event,” Smith-Cone says. “It is ongoing.”

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‘Til We Meet Again owners gamble on new Louisiana store

WICHITA — ’Til We Meet Again business partners Nathan Smith and Traci Smith-Cone should consider buying some lottery tickets. They’ve already won one big gamble this week.

Thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court decision to let an appellate ruling stand, casket dealers are now going to be able to sell in Louisiana, which previously allowed only licensed funeral home directors to make the sales.

Smith and Smith-Cone gambled that this might be the case and have a store ready to go in the Esplanade mall in Kenner, La., which is a suburb of New Orleans.

“We were going to take our chances because we wanted to be the first ones in this market,” Smith says.

“It was worth the calculated risk,” he says. “We do believe this market … is going to be one of our top markets.”

There are a few reasons for that, Smith says.

“We’re not just the first store of its kind, but we’re going into a state that has never had even a casket store,” he says.

“Once an industry corners a market, as we all know, they control the pricing, they control the distribution, they control everything. Caskets in Louisiana, in some parts, (are) double what they are anywhere else in the United States.”

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West-side Miracle Ear opens in new space

WICHITA — After more than twenty years inside Sears at Towne West Square, Miracle Ear now has a place of its own.

Franchisee Lora Cruse, who operates the business with her husband Monty, and son, Monty Cruse Jr., says it was time to “get ourself out there and get in front of everybody.”

The new store is at the Maple Street Mini Mall on the northwest corner of Maple and Anna, which is across from Towne West.

“We didn’t want to get too far away because that’s where our customers know we are,” Cruse says.

The new space is 1,100 square feet.

“It is probably twice as big,” Cruse says.

A bigger factor in the move is that the new space is “just easier to get to.”

“Our folks don’t have to navigate that bigger parking lot … at Towne West.”

The Cruses also have a Miracle Ear in the Sears at Towne East Square.

Possible Towne East Square CUP amendment on hold

WICHITA – Simon Property Group’s application for an amendment to the community unit plan for Towne East Square continues to be deferred, but the adjustment has been approved for Towne West Square.

Simon’s applications were to hold outdoor events at both malls, but neighbors near Towne East are fighting it.

“We’ve got it in a holding pattern right now,” says area mall manager Michael Payton.

He says there are still some details to work out.

“I’m not going to say too much about that.”

Payton says the issue will be revisited, but he can’t say when.

Neighbors oppose Simon Property Group’s request for CUP amendment to allow outdoor events at malls

WICHITA – Simon Property Group has applied for an amendment to the community unit plans for Towne East Square and Towne West Square so it can hold outdoor events at both malls, but neighbors near Towne East are fighting it.

“They want to do a bunch of things in an outdoor forum, which we think means more traffic and more trash and more noise,” says Larry Duntz, president of the Rockwood Homes Association.

“We already have a significant problem with trash … blowing over on our property that they’ve been unwilling to do anything about.”

Area mall manager Michael Payton says what’s blowing is the issue blowing out of proportion.

“This isn’t really a big deal, really,” he says. “We’re going to have a meeting with them to address this.”

Payton won’t address what events the malls would have.

“We’re not necessarily filling in the blanks on that right now,” he says.

“They’re not being very forthright with telling us what exactly they want to do,” Duntz says. “Our entire board has agreed that what they’re talking about is not a good thing.”

Vice Mayor Pete Meitzner says most other retail developments already have approval for holding outdoor events, so he thinks it makes sense for Simon, too.

“They do a lot of good things … for the community,” he says. “It would level the field, so to speak.”

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Towne West Square Lane Bryant to close

WICHITA — Almost 20 years after opening in Towne West Square, Lane Bryant is closing.

The store’s last day in business is Feb. 23.

The national chain, which specializes in plus-size women’s clothing, has had plans to close the Towne West store since a Lane Bryant opened in NewMarket Square in 2011.

Missy Meyer, manager of the NewMarket store, says there are no plans to close or move the Towne East Square Lane Bryant.

‘Til We Meet again obtains license to sell Vatican caskets, urns, grave markers and memorial products

WICHITA — If a business person would like to do business with the Vatican, is it as easy as calling up and asking?

Almost. At least that’s how it seemed to go for Nathan Smith and Traci Smith-Cone of ’Til We Meet Again, the casket store at Towne West Square that’s turning into a national chain.

The day after Thanksgiving, Smith says he and Smith-Cone signed a deal with the Vatican for Vatican-licensed merchandise.

“We are the only source for retail for all Vatican caskets, urns and memorial products throughout the United States,” Smith says. “It’s been something we’ve been working on for quite some time.”

Another company used to have the exclusive license, he says.

“That company that was doing that fell on some hard times and bad management and are no longer in existence,” Smith says.

When he heard that, he says he called the Vatican to inquire about the license.

“Through a lot of negotiations and talks, we thought it brought a lot of value to have that license from the Vatican,” Smith says. “It’s going to be a pretty big license for us.”

The company is in the process of working with the Vatican and several manufacturers on developing lines for caskets, urns, grave markers, jewelry and keepsakes.

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