Almost six years after opening the popular Anchor restaurant and bar on Douglas just east of Old Town , owner Schane Gross is expanding.
"We've gotten so busy, especially with going nonsmoking," she says.
Gross hired Farha Construction to help her with a couple of key changes.
First, she's knocking down the wall that separates the two sides of the business.
That's in part because she wants the Anchor to feel more like a restaurant.
"Our food sales are easily 70 percent of our sales," she says.
Because of the current dividing wall, Gross says the bar area seems even bigger.
"It has such a huge presence."
The back room at the Anchor traditionally is where customers can book parties and events, but now Gross is building a new banquet hall to the east of the Anchor where Honie's Wig & Beauty Supply used to be.
"We have so many people wanting to do private parties," Gross says.
She doesn't like having to turn diners away when there's a private party, in part because the parties are less lucrative.
"Plus, we upset our regulars."
The new event space will hold about 140 people or even more without tables and chairs.
The physical bar at the Anchor also is being rebuilt, Gross says.
She's upgrading her beer delivery system to eliminate waste and have more consistent temperature control.
The Anchor also now will be able to have 60 beers on tap instead of 46.
Gross says a lot of customers won't notice other changes to the bar area.
"The people who know that bar like it's their home will know the difference."
One change she hopes customers will notice is in the food.
Gross plans to add a lot of beer and menu pairings, such as maybe highlighting German beer one night and offering a German dish to go with it. Regional dishes are something else she'd like to explore.
"That's what I'm looking forward to."
With the possibility of Five Guys Burgers and Fries opening next to her on the southwest corner of Douglas and Ida, Gross says some of the pressure would be off of her to offer so many hamburgers. She says it frees her to experiment with other dishes.
Also, Gross says, "If people have more than one reason to go a certain direction, they'll be more likely to come that way."
Gross has been reading a lot of magazines like Bon Appetit for inspiration on what dishes she might offer.
She just read a Bon Appetit article about the top 10 best new restaurants, which included places like hers.
Gross says she's not expecting to land in Bon Appetit, but she says, "If anybody ever comes to Wichita and stumbles across us, I want to qualify for that."
Even busier Ben
It's really hard to believe, but Ben Arnold may be taking on another venture.
The owner of Corporate Caterers of Wichita has taken on a lot in the past year, such as expanding the space at his Douglas and West headquarters, leasing a large, new space at Comotara Center and signing a deal with the Broadview Hotel .
Now, Arnold may be Cargill's top choice to take over the restaurant space at the company's Wichita headquarters at 151 N. Main.
"I am very interested in the space and would love the opportunity," Arnold says.
"I have not signed a contract on the space, so to confirm this information would be premature."
Piccadilly Express had been operating at the building for 13 years but last month was told it didn't make the cut in Cargill's decision about future food services.
The restaurant closed immediately.
Look for news on Arnold's possible deal soon.
You don't say
"What can I say? It's like putting on the big-boy pants."
—Wichitan Jonathan George , developer of the Boxcar app that sends iPhone alerts when your name is mentioned on places like Twitter , on incorporating his company