At long last, the west side is getting its own Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches restaurant.
“We wish we had a location on the west open two years ago,” says franchisee Matt Brane.
He’s president of Bushwood Investments, a partnership of three Wichitans who own 29 Jimmy John’s restaurants in Kansas and Texas.
So far, the group has three Jimmy John’s here, including two North Rock Road and one just north of Central and Hillside.
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Now, the group has a contract on space next to Applebee’s on 21st Street west of Maize Road. The deal hasn’t closed yet, but it’s expected to soon, and the new restaurant should be open by late spring.
Finding west-side space has been a challenge, Brane says, but not due to a lack of space.
“There’s tons of in-line space available on the west side,” he says. “We’re selective about where we go.”
Brane says, “Our mission is to develop Class A real estate with freestanding drive-through locations. Those are more difficult to find.”
The Central and Hillside Jimmy John’s and the one at 340 N. Rock Road have drive-throughs. The one at 3300 N. Rock Road does not.
Brane says his group is looking for another west-side site for a second restaurant there along with one for downtown. Nothing is close yet.
The west-side Jimmy John’s site isn’t the only real estate deal Bushwood Investments has been working on.
The group is buying new 6,000-square-foot office space at 1223 N. Rock Road in the Polo Club Office Park. The deal will close April 15.
“We are out of room,” Brane says of the company’s current space at 115 S. Hydraulic.
That almost-3,000-square-foot space is now for sale or lease.
Drivers on East Central have been noticing the demolition of some quadruplexes between Oliver and Edgemoor and have been wondering what’s going on.
Expert Auto Center owner Faissal Abou-Faissal is preparing to build his third mechanic shop there.
“It’s probably going to be our biggest,” he says.
Abou-Faissal opened his first Expert Auto Center in rented space at 13th and Meridian in 1997. He eventually bought that building and added new space there. In 2004, he opened a second shop at 100 S. Baltimore in Derby.
Abou-Faissal says he’s opening an east-side shop for customers from that area who currently have to drive longer distances to see him for service.
“We have lots of customers who come from the east side of town,” he says.
The new center, at 5222 E. Central, will have eight bays and a lube center.
“Basically, it will be a drive-through,” he says of the lube bay.
Construction will take several months.
“We’re hoping less than five months,” Abou-Faissal says.
He’s not sure whether he’ll open any future Expert Auto Centers.
“Anything is possible.”
Abou-Faissal says his business is strictly word-of-mouth.
“We base our business on our relationships with customers and take care of them like they’re family.”
‘Just a name change’
Some diners might fear d’Sozo, the vegan restaurant and market at 1812 S. Seneca, is closed for good.
It is, but not to worry.
The restaurant is taking a break for the holidays, and Chef Miguel Larcher will reopen it Tuesday under a new name. He’s the new owner of the restaurant, so he’s naming it for himself: Miguel Larcher.
“Everything is basically the same,” says former owner Larry Cook. “It’s just a name change.”
Cook still owns the building and all of the restaurant’s equipment.
“You know, I’m a developer, and that’s all I do,” he says. “I’m just trying to do … my thing that I do best.”
Larcher grew up in Martinique, where he attended culinary school at age 16. Eventually he attended another culinary school in Nice, France, before coming to the United States 20 years ago.
Cook says it makes sense for Larcher to own the business.
“He’s the chef that has been running the whole show.”
Farewell to a friend
Wichita has lost one of its most well-known – and possibly well-liked – restaurateurs.
Gary Cocking, the longtime owner of Harry’s Uptown Bar & Grill near Douglas and Hillside, died Monday after a battle with cancer. He was 74.
“The guy knew probably as many people in Wichita as anybody,” says Darrell Leason, a commercial real estate and investment broker.
He says Mr. Cocking’s way with people is what made him such a good businessman.
“He was excellent with people … and had a great memory for people’s names and faces.”
Cocking grew up working in his family’s restaurants, such as Wilbur & Susie’s near the stockyards on 21st Street, and he opened his first place – the Embers – in the late ’60s.
He went on to own the College Inn and the Rodeo, among other businesses, and manage places such as Nirt & Girty’s and Carlos & Wong’s.
“He knew how to operate a bar and how to make it a good place to hang out,” says Jeff Breault, who owns R&J Discount Liquor, which is just down from Harry’s.
“He made that … ‘ Cheers’ atmosphere.”
Businessman Max Cole, a close friend of Mr. Cocking’s from childhood, says he was someone you could see from across the room and know “you’d like to meet him and be around him.”
“He’d walk up to you and say, ‘Hi, sugar, how’s it goin’?’ ”
Mr. Cocking’s son, Gary Cocking II, and daughter, Tracy Lebrun, now own Harry’s. Mr. Cocking’s wife, Michele, will continue to manage the business.
Gary Cocking II, known as “Little Gary,” says his father initially worked in the railroad business for Wichita Terminal.
“He hated it,” he says. “Maybe because it was a desk job and that just wasn’t for him. He always liked the conceptualization of everything, and that’s why he had so many clubs.”
Cocking says his father was also his best friend.
“It’s going to be tough to do without him, that’s for sure.”
You don’t say
“That’s why I own that liquor store – because I was hanging out at Harry’s. Aren’t all good ideas like that concocted in a bar?”
– R&J Discount Liquor owner Jeff Breault
Carrie Rengers first reported these items on her blog. Be among the first to get her business scoops at blogs.kansas.com/haveyouheard.