A 1,500-square-foot Scooter’s is second tenant for Union Station

WICHITA — Occidental Management now has its second tenant in its new development at Union Station, which it is planning to transform into a multi-use destination in the heart of the city.

“We’re going to be putting in a Scooter’s coffee cafe,” says Occidental president Chad Stafford, who handled the deal with chairman and CEO Gary Oborny.

Wichita businessman Tad Fugate will open the Scooter’s in 1,500 square feet on the east end of what was the Grand Hotel immediately to the west of The Wichita Eagle. The businesses are across from the entrance to Old Town.

“So they’ll have great presence along Douglas,” Stafford says.

“To have them in this with their coffee brand is pretty exciting,” he says of Fugate and his company.

This won’t be a typical Scooter’s kiosk.

“This is a little bit different for them in that they’re getting into a little cafe style.”

There are similar Scooter’s cafes on the Plaza in Kansas City and in Overland Park.

There will be a drive-through at the cafe.

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Smoothie King and two other businesses to open in former Rock Island Depot space

UPDATED — Some people buy sports cars or take extravagant trips for their midlife crises, but Neil Bhakta is choosing to share his with all of Wichita by opening three new businesses.

The Smoothie King partner is planning his fourth Smoothie King site, this time downtown in the former Rock Island Depot, where he also plans a new restaurant and venue space.

“This is going to be my midlife crisis project right here,” Bhakta says.

“I love the building that we’re going into.”

Old Town Martini, which was the last business there, closed in 2009.

Occidental Management purchased the building earlier this year as part of its purchase of the Union Station campus. The company plans a mixed-use development, which will have retail and office space and possibly residential as well. Smoothie King is the first announced tenant.

“It’s good to get the first one done,” says Chad Stafford, Occidental president. “We’re excited to get rolling down there.”

Stafford thinks Smoothie King will do well.

“It’s going to do terrific,” he says. “Certainly there’s a lot of traffic. … That site, as it begins to develop and get rolling, we’ll have a lot of visitors to it.”

Bhakta says Occidental will restore the exterior of the building.

“It’s going to be a nice project.”

It’s one he says he previously wouldn’t have even considered.

In the dozen or so years of having Smoothie King, Bhakta says, “We never looked at downtown.”

That’s even though he grew up in the area.

“We actually left,” Bhakta says. “Downtown in the ’90s, we didn’t have much faith in it … coming back.”

That’s what has happened, though, he says.

“What they’ve done downtown is amazing.”

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Sources: Occidental Management signs letter of intent to buy Union Station

WICHITA — After about five years of courtship with various suitors, it looks like Union Station finally may be engaged again.

Sources say Occidental Management has signed a letter of intent to buy the downtown property that Cox Communications owns and where it previously had its Kansas headquarters.

“We continue to have discussions with interested parties,” says Jay Allbaugh, Cox’s vice president of government and public affairs for the Cox Central Region.

Allbaugh won’t say anything further, and Occidental chairman and CEO Gary Oborny says he can’t comment on the situation.

Union Station and its 111,000-square-foot campus first went on the market in spring 2008, about a year after Cox left for bigger offices at 901 George Washington Blvd.

The list price for the former train station at 701 E. Douglas is $6.4 million.

Clay Center businessman Phil Frigon’s $5.5 million, 2009 deal to buy the campus to create a mixed-use development collapsed when he failed to reach an agreement for the city to lease parking from him for Intrust Bank Arena.

A mixed-use development that potentially would include retail, office and residential space and would help further revitalize downtown has been the top hope of potential uses for Union Station.

Oborny and Occidental have a history of converting older properties into new developments, most notably with the former Northrock 6 Theater at 32nd Street and North Rock Road. They converted the theater into an 80,000-square-foot, Class A office complex where Occidental now has its headquarters.

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Rock Island Cafe to open in May in Yogurt Xplosion space on North Rock Road

WICHITA — It was late December when Kirsten Teague, a former Rock Island Cafe manager, announced she’s bringing back the restaurant.

“It seems like it’s been a long time,” she says.

She’s been looking for space since then, and now she’s found it at 3236 N. Rock Road where Yogurt Xplosion will be closing.

“It’s just that location – North Rock Road – that’s what I’ve been looking for,” Teague says.

Kianga Coleman of J.P. Weigand & Sons handled the deal.

Yogurt Xplosion owner Amber Dunn, who opened the business less than a year ago, didn’t return calls for comment.

The original Rock Island Cafe was open from 1985 until the mid-1990s next to Union Station in the former Rock Island Railroad baggage terminal. That’s the building that became home to the original Tanya’s Soup Kitchen.

“We’re going back to the original Rock Island,” Teague says.

That means the restaurant will serve breakfast and lunch but won’t have evening hours.

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RJ’s House of Fades to move to Eaton Place, but owner Ronnie Robinson Jr. has bigger dreams than doing hair

WICHITA — Ronnie Robinson Jr. is the second person to sign a new lease at Eaton Place in the last week.

He’s moving his RJ’s House of Fades barber shop from its current location near Harry and Edgemoor to the west side of Eaton Place at 106 S. Emporia. That’s two doors north of where the new McCracken Guitars will be opening later this month.

Robinson’s shop is named for a type of haircut that’s popular among black men.

“Of course, we can cut any style of hair,” Robinson says.

In addition to liking how centralized his new location will be — and appreciating downtown in general — Robinson particularly likes the history of Eaton Place.

“I would rather bring back the old feel.”

Leo Goseland of Coldwell Banker Plaza Real Estate handled the deal.

Robinson is so interested in downtown and history, he’s in talks with potential investors about possibly doing something with the former Union Station just down Douglas from where his barber shop will be.

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Rock Island Cafe to reopen, this time on the east side

WICHITA — A former Rock Island Cafe manager is bringing back the restaurant, this time on the east side.

“Just bringing back the Rock, that’s what I’ve been saying,”says Kirsten Teague.

The restaurant, which was open from 1985 until the mid-1990s, was next to Union Station in the former Rock Island Railroad baggage terminal. That’s the building that became home to the original Tanya’s Soup Kitchen.

Teague has been working on leasing space on North Rock Road.

“It’s kind of like a divorce to me,” Teague says of negotiations. “Here’s what I want, here’s what you want, now can we meet in the middle?”

It’s looking like she can’t meet in the middle on the place where she’s been negotiating, but Teague says, “I’ve got Plan B.”

Teague says she ran Rock Island Cafe after Sabrina Parker bought it from founders Chris Farha and Janet Cohlmia.

Parker, who owns Merle’s Place and the Walt’s All American Bar and Grill on West Central, isn’t involved in the new restaurant.

“She’s just my moral support,” Teague says.

She describes the new Rock Island as a gourmet sandwich shop with “weird combinations that are not normal.”

For instance, she’ll serve chicken salad with almonds and pineapple in pita bread.

“It’s not like all the sandwich shops in town,” Teague says. “I have people who still remember what we did.”

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Alltite and MobileCal owner plans to sell the downtown building where he planned offices

WICHITA — Five months after Alltite and MobileCal founder Tom Smith closed on a deal to buy a 14,000-square-foot building at 141 S. Rock Island near The Wichita Eagle, he’s now selling it.

“To renovate the building the way I was going to renovate, it just didn’t appraise for what it was going to cost to build it,” Smith says.

“I was really disappointed that it didn’t work out.”

In January, Have You Heard? first reported Smith had a contract on the building, which was built in 1901 as a livery stable in conjunction with the adjacent Union Station.

Smith currently leases space on the east side for his companies.

Alltite sells industrial bolting equipment and services to heavy industrial plants. MobileCal is a mobile calibration lab he developed to service industrial equipment on site.

Smith had planned to create a loft-style office for his new space.

The appraisal on the renovation “was kind of the last piece of the puzzle,” Smith says.

He says financing was contingent on it.

“The economies aren’t there.”

Now, he’s trying to decide if he’ll build or look for another existing structure to transform into his offices.

“I’m looking everywhere,” Smith says.

He says several people are interested in the Rock Island space. Smith says potential buyers would renovate the space.

“So something good is going to happen to that building.”

Alltite and MobileCal owner closes on purchase of one-time livery station downtown

WICHITA — Alltite and MobileCal founder Tom Smith has closed on his deal to buy a 14,000-square-foot building at 141 S. Rock Island near The Wichita Eagle.

“We’ve got a lot of customers and employees coming in from all over the country, and I wanted to have a neat, interesting property,” Smith says. “I really like old buildings with a lot of character. It’s just got the cool factor.”

In January, Have You Heard? first reported Smith had a contract on the building, which was built in 1901 as a livery stable in conjunction with the adjacent Union Station.

“The neat thing about the building is there’s a sliding door from the ice house next door,” Smith says.

He says blocks of ice and other refrigerated goods would be loaded onto horse-drawn carriages stationed in his building and then be delivered around Wichita.

Smith currently leases space on the east side for his companies.

Alltite sells industrial bolting equipment and services to heavy industrial plants, and Smith’s MobileCal is a mobile calibration lab he developed to service industrial equipment on site.

Smith says he plans to create a loft-style office for his new space.

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Alltite and MobileCal founder Tom Smith to move from the east side to downtown

WICHITA — Count Alltite founder Tom Smith as another businessman who is bucking the trend of leaving downtown for the east side.

Smith is planning to leave the east side for downtown.

He has a contract on a 14,000-square-foot building at 141 S. Rock Island near The Wichita Eagle.

“I thought it was a neat, up-and-coming location, and I wanted to move my business downtown,” Smith says.

Alltite sells industrial bolting equipment and services to heavy industrial plants, and Smith’s MobileCal is a mobile calibration lab he developed to service industrial equipment on site.

Smith currently leases 12,000 square feet at 37th and Woodlawn. About 3,000 square feet of that is office space, and the rest is warehouse space.

At the new building, the office space would double.

First, though, Smith needs to get the building on state and national historic registries in order to qualify for tax credits.

The building, which most recently was home to Acme Art Glass, was built around 1907 as a livery stable for the Union Station ice house.

Smith wants to do a historic renovation to the exterior of the building. The interior would be more modern.

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Old Town Martini to close; owners to keep catering business in new location

martiniWICHITA — After a decade in business, Old Town Martini is closing.

But fans of the restaurant in the former Rock Island train depot can still get food by brothers Kassem and Ali Yassine because they’ll continue their catering business at 3407 E. Douglas.

“I had a good time here, but I have to do this move,” Kassem Yassine says. “In this time and in this economy, I’d rather be small.”

Business is still OK, but there are several things prompting the move.

The restaurant’s banquet business used to be big, with at least one or two a week.

Now, Ali Yassine says, “We don’t see them.”

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