Metro Grill owner explains departure

WICHITA — Metro Grill owner Michael Gonzalez wasn’t available last week to discuss why he abruptly left his restaurant at the Waterfront, which his landlord said he gutted on the way out.

“There was more to it than what they said, of course,” Gonzalez says.

“I’ve been so depressed for the last couple of weeks, but life goes on.”

He says there were a number of issues that caused him to leave.

“I was expecting volume like Andover,” Gonzalez says of his former restaurant there, which someone else now owns.

He says his lunch and weekend business was great, but the rest of his sales weren’t enough.

“That was just too much of a high rent to sustain,” Gonzalez says. “But I gave it a shot.”

He says parking became a bit of an issue with the new Firebirds next door to his restaurant. Also, Gonzalez says his landlords disappointed him by not putting his restaurant on a billboard near Kellogg and Rock Road as he says they promised. He says he had been working with them to lower his rent and then received a 10-day notice to leave.

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Metro Grill abruptly closes at the Waterfront; owner ‘gutted the place,’ landlord says

WICHITA — As he opens a new Metro Grill on the west side, Michael Gonzalez abruptly left his restaurant of the same name at the Waterfront.

“He just went in there and gutted the place a couple of nights ago,” says Johnny Stevens, a partner in the development at 13th and Webb Road.

“Pulled lights out of the ceiling. Pulled cabinets off the walls. Took everything he could.”

Stevens says Gonzalez didn’t leave many things behind.

“Not much. A sink. A toilet. A few odds and ends.”

Gonzalez couldn’t be reached for comment.

There’s now an eviction notice on the door, but Stevens says that came only after Gonzalez moved out.

“There’s nothing to go back in for,” he says. “But we’ve got to … go through that process.”

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Good Life Co.’s cookies go national

UPDATED — Even during the Good Life Co.’s humble beginnings – when Greg Cole was selling his Little Bits cookies at farmers markets – he knew he’d go national one day. He never thought it would be three years after starting his business, though.

“We’re actually two years ahead of our projected plan,” Cole says.

“We go national next month,” he says. “I never thought that we would get a national contract so soon.”

Cole’s specialty is seven-spice gourmet cookie. After farmers markets, he began selling to local stores, such as Green Acres MarketSpice Merchant & Co. and the local health store Whole Foods Association.

When Fresh Market opened at Bradley Fair in 2012, Cole began selling his cookies there.

“They weren’t expecting the cookie to do so well,” he says.

Then the Kansas City Fresh Market began selling the cookies.

Now, the chain is going to begin putting Little Bits in its other stores as well.

“It’s going to be a five-year project,” Cole says. “You can’t roll out to every store all at once. … That’s an ongoing process.”

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Abuelo’s inching closer to west-side deal

WICHITA — Abuelo’s, the Mexican restaurant chain that opened at the Waterfront in April 2004, is working on a deal for west-side space.

“It’s been a good market for us,” Abuelo’s director of marketing Melanie Carroll says of Wichita.

She says the Lubbock-based company is always looking for growth opportunities and believes Wichita could sustain two Abuelo’s restaurants, but she won’t share details beyond that.

Landmark Commercial Real Estate president and CEO Brad Saville, who represents Abuelo’s in Wichita, says the chain is eyeing three west-side sites and hasn’t yet determined where it will go.

Other sources, though, says Abuelo’s is getting closer to a deal at a site near the Kellogg and Ridge Road corridor not far from where the new Twin Peaks is going to open.

Earlier this month, Have You Heard? reported that Twin Peaks, which already has an east-side site, is going to open at 7325 W. Taft. It will be in a building across Ridge Road from Carlos O’Kelly’s and Panera Bread, which is south of Maple and Ridge.

The area is becoming a hot spot for restaurants such as Applebee’s, McAlister’s Deli, Chipotle Mexican Grill, IHOP and Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers among others.

Look for more news on Abuelo’s in the months ahead.

Fox & Hound parent company files Chapter 11 bankruptcy

UPDATED — Wichita-based F&H Acquisition Group, which does business as Fox & Hound and Champps Americana, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

“Obviously it’s a difficult decision,” says spokesman Rick Van Warner.

“Over the last several months, the company has looked at a number of different options to restructure the debt or to restructure the corporate financial structure,” he says. “We decided that the best option to most quickly and efficiently get through the turnaround plan that we’re working on is to do so under Chapter 11 protection.”

The filing lists F&H’s liabilities and assets both as somewhere between $100 million and $500 million.

Van Warner says there have been several issues that led to the company’s struggles.

“It’s been a very soft environment overall for casual dining restaurants, including our concepts,” he says. “In addition, our debt levels from the past were high, and you know, you add all that together along with the fact that real estate markets have changed a lot in the country . . . and there’s a whole number of factors that lead to a financial restructuring of this type.”

Van Warner says the bankruptcy filing will impact the corporation but not day-to-day business at the restaurants.

“It’s not going to impact anything we’re doing at the restaurants,” he says. “Most of the restaurants generate meaningful cash flow still, and our brands are making solid progress.”

There are 50 Fox & Hound restaurants, including one at Wichita’s Waterfront development, which is also where the company has its headquarters. There are 35 Champps restaurants and 16 Bailey’s restaurants, which are the same concept as Fox & Hound.

Van Warner says the bankruptcy filing is more about “a fresh start.” The company also is looking for what Van Warner calls a cash infusion, but he says he can’t be more specific about that.

“It’s hard to tell,” he says of where the money may come from. “It’s a process. It’s to be determined.”

He adds, “We really need a more sound capital structure to have a strong platform for future growth. That’s really what this is about.”

Van Warner says there have been leadership changes at the company in the last year.

Former CEO Steve Johnson left in October 2012.

“I left for personal reasons,” he says.

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Food For Thought to close after 42 years

UPDATED — More than four decades after opening, Food For Thought is closing.

“It probably should have been done before now,” owner Melinda Foley says. “The competition in town is just getting tougher and tougher.”

Foley says her store is Wichita’s only full-service independent natural foods market left in the area.

She says big-box competitors are an issue. The Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage chain opened in 2011.

“We kind of started seeing our numbers slip then,” Foley says. “And Bread and Circus is looming next year.”

That’s the Whole Foods chain that’s opening at the Waterfront.

“We are in a location where not as many people are shopping in this area as used to be,” Foley says.

The store has been at 2929 E. Central for the last 20 of its 42 years in business.

“It’s time for us to go out gracefully.”

The store has started a liquidation sale. Foley expects to close within a month.

“There’s going to be some awesome people out there looking for employment,” she says.

Foley says she didn’t try to sell the store.

“We just felt like it was time to just let it go,” she says. “We have so enjoyed serving this community, and we have made so many friends with our customers. That’s going to be really sad to let go.”

 

 

Irvin Jacks Mens Barber Spa to open at the Shops at Tallgrass at 21st and Rock Road

UPDATED — Irvin Jacks Mens Barber Spa is moving from temporary space to the Shops at Tallgrass at the northeast corner of 21st and Rock Road.

Previously, Irvin Jacks was at the Waterfront at 13th and Webb Road in the almost 3,300 square feet where Craig Allen’s Men’s Fine Grooming once was.

“We basically trimmed off the fat,” owner Felicia DeSpain says.

“The space was definitely a very large size, even for a women’s facility,” she says. “We needed to be able to utilize the space.”

The new spa will be in almost 2,000 square feet of part of the former Nelson Designs space. Nelson is now in the former Norwalk Furniture & Design space at Shops. Norwalk is now in a warehouse at 8630 E. 32nd Court North.

Irvin Jacks offers haircuts for men and boys along with other salon services, such as massage, facials and nail care.

“We are still offering the same services,” DeSpain says.

The new space will have a lounge and patio.

“Our clients consider us the premier barber salon and social club for men,” DeSpain says. “It’s a place for guys to relax and take a break from their daily stresses.”

April Reed of Slawson Cos. handled the deal for the new space.

Look for Irvin Jacks to open in August.

Waterfront development to get new office park; Whole Foods to break ground in July

The nine lots on the lower right of this aerial map show where the newest development at the Waterfront will go.

WICHITA — Another new area of development is coming to the Waterfront at 13th and Webb Road.

“We’ve got a small office park going in east of Bonefish,” says Stephen Clark II.

There will be up to nine lots on eight acres.

“It’s all office use,” Clark says.

Primarily, those offices will be medical, but there will be some service-type offices as well, such as financial services.

The lots are for sale, and the buyers will be the builders, though each building will be in what Clark calls the upscale Waterfront style.

“We have one so far and are talking to others,” Clark says of buyers.

He says the first deal will be announced in August.

Construction will start next week.

There’s still room for retail between Bonefish Grill and the new office park, but that will come later, Clark says.

There are several other areas in development at the Waterfront.

Planning is still underway for a new Class A, high-end apartment complex across the lake from Homewood Suites by Hilton at the Waterfront. Clark says schematics are now complete.

Also, the new 5,000-square-foot home for his father’s Clark Investment Group should be ready in two months.

The company currently is in 2,500 square feet near 13th and Rock Road in the Polo Club Office Park. The new office is off of Webb Road and across from Ciao Italian Kitchen on the Waterfront’s lake.

Over at Waterfront Plaza, which is on the northwest corner of 13th and Webb Road, construction is close to starting on the new Whole Foods grocery that will anchor the development.

“That starts in one month,” Clark says.

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Two east-side business offices to move

WICHITA — A couple of businessmen are moving their east-side offices, but not far.

Bud Gates is moving his Easygates office from the Tallgrass Executive Park at 22nd and Rock Road to the Polo Club Office Park near 13th and Rock Road.

“We just ran out of space,” Gates says. “We’ve got people in closets over here.”

He says he had been looking to lease another space. In the process, he came across a Tallgrass building to buy.

The Easygates office currently is about 2,900 square feet and is moving to about 4,600 square feet next month. Gates says the new office will offer a lot more storage room in addition to more office space.

Gates is the master franchisor for Easyhome lease-to-own stores in 36 states. He says there are 38 stores under his umbrella – 17 stores that he operates and 21 that are franchises.

“We’re just kind of clicking along,” Gates says. “We probably would like to grow 10 stores per year.”

He says he’ll lease about 900 square feet of his new building to a tenant.

“I can’t reveal that one yet.”

Further east, Paul Jackson is moving his Vantage Point Properties within the Waterfront.

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Mike Lewis moves Newton gym, opens training center in Wichita

UPDATED — Mike Lewis has moved his Newton-based gym and is opening a personal training center in Wichita.

Mike Lewis Fitness is now in about 6,000 square feet at the Chisholm Trail Center-Outlet & Retail Shops in Newton.

“Basically, I’m growing,” Lewis says of his business, which opened in 2009.

The gym offers a variety of workout options, such as spin classes, boot camps and personal training.

The new business, Fitness on the Waterfront, is opening at the Waterfront development at 13th and Webb Road exclusively for personal training.

“The clientele up there around the Waterfront is the main reason I want to do the Waterfront one,” Lewis says.

Don Piros of Landmark Commercial Real Estate handled the deal.

Personal training that he received, along with a sports background, inspired Lewis to open the gym.

“I’ve played every sport known to man,” he says. “I always wanted to open my own gym.”