Oil and gas and real estate developer Don Slawson dies of Alzheimer’s complications

WICHITA — Longtime Wichita businessman Don Slawson has died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

“My father passed away early this morning,” says Todd Slawson, the youngest of three Slawson sons and Denver-based president of his family’s oil company.

Mr. Slawson was a fixture in the Wichita business community for decades.

“He was very much an entrepreneur,” says Jerry Jones, a commercial broker at Slawson Cos.

“He had a very strong passion for business,” Todd Slawson says.

After graduating from the University of Kansas with a political science degree and a minor in geology, Mr. Slawson worked briefly for a drilling company before starting his own oil and gas business in 1957.

“His love … initially was oil and gas,” Todd Slawson says. “He was one of the most active drillers in the state of Kansas for many years.”

Then, in the 1970s, Mr. Slawson began buying land in Wichita.

“As he would tell it, he saw … that he wanted to diversify his business,” Jones says.

Read More »

Lawrence Freebirds World Burrito closes, but Wichita Freebirds is doing fine

WICHITA — The Freebirds World Burrito in Lawrence has closed after a year in business, but that doesn’t mean anything for Wichita Freebirds restaurants, one of the chain’s operators says.

“Everything’s great there,” says Bryce Katz, COO and partner in Overland Park-based FB Midwest Development, which is the first franchisee of the chain that’s based in Texas and California

“We never had a following in Lawrence, unfortunately,” Katz says. “Being a graduate of Kansas, it’s very disappointing.”

He says when the restaurant first opened on Massachusetts Street in late January last year, there was a great reception in the community. Then came a couple of big snowstorms followed by spring break.

“It just killed our momentum,” Katz says.

He’s not sure why.

“If I knew it would probably have helped us not to close.”

The first Wichita Freebirds opened in in June south of Central and Hillside in the same center as Great Wall.

“It’s the best in our system actually,” Katz says of the chain’s six restaurants.

“Wichita people have taken well to it,” he says. “We’re working on getting that service piece going faster and getting people through the line and operationally getting more sound.”

Katz says the rest of his company’s restaurants “are doing great.”

Another one is planned for the Village at Greenwich at 21st and Greenwich.

Katz says a west-side Freebirds is a possibility as well. He says there’s “room for expansion.”

“We’re definitely open to look.”

You don’t say

“My wife was not happy to see the store opening.”

University of Kansas alumnus Alan Burch, who was happy to see the new KU Store open in Eastgate Plaza but already has more memorabilia than his wife thinks he should

Chris Hamman to open Golf Etc. near K-96 and Greenwich in March

WICHITA — Lifelong golfer Chris Hamman is turning his passion into a career.

Hamman, who played at the University of Kansas, is opening Golf Etc. this spring at 2621 N. Greenwich. That’s near K-96 and Greenwich by Star Lumber and Heartland Coin Gallery.

Hamman was with Koch Industries for almost 28 years. His last position was president of Invista’s polymer and resins business.

Golf Etc. will be what Hamman calls an upscale, full-service golf shop and club-fitting studio.

“We really wanted to be able to provide products and services to golfers of all skill levels to help them improve their game more,” he says.

The store will sell the latest golf equipment, apparel, accessories and gift items.

It also will offer a professional club-fitting service.

“We’ll be able to repair and build golf clubs in our workshop, which is within the store,” Hamman says.

Read More »

You don’t say

“That said I would like to take this opportunity to point out that Butler was first in bestowing such an honor on you, so am wondering a bit which is the more insightful of the two institutions.”

Butler Community College president Jackie Vietti in a teasing note to Ford CEO Alan Mulally congratulating him on receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Kansas

University of Kansas tops best universities to work for

WICHITA — Usually college rankings are all about how good a school is for students.

Glassdoor.com, which examines careers and companies, has a new study that will be published on its site Friday that takes a look at what colleges are like for the people who work there.

The University of Kansas is the No. 1 best place to work in the ranking of more than 100 large schools nationally.

H. David Wilson, dean of the KU School of Medicine-Wichita, isn’t surprised.

“I can tell you the people that work here are really a happy bunch,” he says. “We come to work because of the camaraderie, because of the support of the university and because of the mission.”

He says there is minimal turnover.

“People know that they could probably make more money working somewhere else,” Wilson says.

There are intangibles that trump dollars, though.

“People feel like we’re doing something important.”

You don’t say

“We’re going to keep it at 10 so the KU grads can count the number of schools in the conference.”

Kansas State president Kirk Schulz, joking at Rotary today about why the Big 12 conference will stay with only 10 schools

Fairchild Interiors and Design to open at the Waterfront

WICHITA — Jan Colvin’s design career is, in a way, coming full circle.

Colvin started in the business by dressing windows for a shop in Augusta when she was 14.

She eventually went to the University of Kansas for interior design and went on to have a more than 20-year career in the business, including the last eight in Denver with Fairchild Interiors and Design.

Now, she’s returned to the Wichita area and is continuing her Fairchild Interiors, this time with retail space at the Waterfront at 13th and Webb.

“I have always wanted to have a shop,” Colvin says.

Fairchild will open in 4,200 square feet next to GM Clothes Horse shortly after Thanksgiving. (Colvin temporarily is in some space next to Doc Green’s to receive supplies.)

Read More »

You don’t say

“My goal is to have nothing happen.”

Barbara Atkinson, interim chancellor of the University of Kansas, on her hopes for her short-term leadership of KU

Melanie Rene Jewelry to open in former Emmert’s Jewelry & Repair on East Central

WICHITA — After 35 years in business, Emmert’s Jewelry & Repair at 4618 E. Central closed, but a new jewelry store is opening in its place.

Melanie Williamson hopes to open her Melanie Rene Jewelry by Aug. 1.

The custom designer says, “I do real modern, contemporary stuff, but I also will do remounting, repair, appraisal — everything.”

Williamson grew up in Wichita, went to the University of Kansas and never returned home until now.

Initially, she studied graphic design, but she says one bad teacher caused her to change her focus.

Williamson took an elective class that piqued her interest and caused her to shift her major to metalsmithing.

Eventually, she opened Gemesis Jewelers in Las Vegas, which she had for five years. She closed the shop three years ago but decided she wants to get back in the business full time.

Williamson says she’s “done with Vegas.”

“I was there almost 10 years. It’s really hard to get a business going there right now.”

Williamson likes that her new space is close to the popular Bella Luna Cafe.

Her mother, Barbara Williams of Prudential Dinning-Beard, helped her find it.

And though Williamson says she’s a very different jeweler than Jim Emmert is, she likes that she’ll occupy the East Central space where he was for 15 of his 35 years in business.

“It was previously a jewelry store, and everybody knows it’s a jewelry store,” Williamson says. “I’m just kind of relying on the old foot traffic.”