Carrie Rengers

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Sod sales brings growth for Wichita company

09/17/2011 12:00 AM

09/17/2011 7:39 AM

Wichita homeowners may not be buying sod like they once were, but other Kansans are, and that's why the SodShop is expanding.

Owners Tony Wilbur and his brother, Ted , have purchased Pine Family Farm in Lawrence.

"We're trying to diversify," Tony Wilbur says. "We're trying to expand ... our sales area."

The Wilburs, whose Wichita shop is at 3601 N. Hillside, also have a SodShop south of Olathe and a sod farm north of Wichita that they own with Tony Wilbur's son, Wade .

Commercial and government work is still strong in Wichita, Tony Wilbur says, but residential sales aren't.

"The housing's down terrible here, which means a pretty good drop in Wichita," he says.

He says he and his brother are expanding in order to keep up volume.

"Fort Riley has been very good to us, and there's a lot of building going on in Manhattan," he says. "We sell a lot of grass up there."

He calls north Manhattan and Junction City "a real hotbed area for the last couple of years now."

"We're thinking about that direction also," he says of expansion.

In addition to sod, the company sells stone and bulk materials, boulders, patio stone and rock bubblers in Wichita.

At its other locations, the company sells sod only.

"We're trying to bring all of the office work here to Wichita and do just the field work there," Wilbur says. "We're kind of trying to consolidate that and see if we can't be a little more efficient."

Since taking over Pine Family Farm on Sept. 1, Wilbur says it's been going well.

"It's busy right now," he says. "We've been very fortunate."

Mini expansion

Mini-Mac Inc., which manufactures spacers for the aerospace industry, isn't going to be so small anymore.

"We have outgrown our facilities," owner Bob McNamee says.

He's currently in about 2,500 square feet at 1912 N. 159th St. East.

His new space, which he'll move into in the early part of 2012, is more than 10,000 square feet over three buildings at 1703 Southwest Boulevard.

Brent Stewart of KW Commercial and Ted Branson of Landmark Commercial Real Estate handled the deal.

Mini-Mac will take 5,600 square feet in the main building on the new property, and the rest of the space will be available for lease.

This is the first time the business has moved since McNamee's late father, Mac , started the business in 1970.

"It was my dad's hobby that turned into a business," McNamee says. "He always had a machine shop in the basement I always remember as a kid growing up."

McNamee says his father "would do odds and ends for people."

"He did that in his spare time. That was his passion. And then when he retired from Boeing , he had some people that were in the distribution business, and they encouraged him to get into the manufacturing of what we now do today."

Within six months, he says, his father "could not keep it small, and that's when I showed up."

McNamee says he feels like the aviation business is on an upswing.

"We're going to have a very, very nice year," he says.

McNamee thinks his father would approve of the new space and the business in general.

"He'd be very pleased with it," he says. "From basically starting out with one customer to now we deal with almost everybody in the aerospace industry, maybe not directly, but indirectly."

Now his own son, Dylan , is also in the business.

Not that McNamee is going anywhere.

"I'm not ready to give it up yet."

You don't say

"I wanted people to come and enjoy themselves, and that's what happened. The tables didn't turn over."

Jody Briceland , who in August closed her Wild Thyme cafe in Maize due to poor sales but now is back open with an increased focus on catering instead of dine-in sales

About Carrie Rengers

Carrie Rengers joined The Eagle's Business team in 2002 despite her inability to even balance a checkbook. Fortunately for her, and readers, her Have You Heard? blog is about business scoops and contains lots of news but almost no math.

A Michigan native, Carrie’s father was quite tragically transferred to Little Rock, Ark., in the middle of her sophomore year of high school. To make matters worse, her parents put her in a girls school. She recovered, though, and went on to enjoy being an English major at Hendrix College (the Harvard of the Ozarks, don’t you know). She worked for the weekly Arkansas Business and the statewide daily Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before moving to Wichita to be with her favorite writer and cook, husband Joe Stumpe.

Carrie encourages readers to contact her with tips, questions, behind-the-scenes business news and even funny quotes from business people. Reach her at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com

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