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Event venue grabs spot on Waterfront’s east lake

08/13/2014 5:22 PM

08/13/2014 5:22 PM

Most people are familiar with the Waterfront’s lake at the northeast corner of 13th and Webb, where several restaurants have patios overlooking it.

There’s also another lake on the east side of the property, though, and the development has now landed its first tenant to overlook it.

Noah’s Event Venue, a national chain of event spaces, will open in a new, almost 10,000-square-foot building next summer.

“Noah’s is a good, fast-growing event company, and we’re lucky to have them in Wichita,” says the Waterfront’s Stephen Clark II.

“Wichita lacks this kind of quality events space,” he says. “This one obviously will have a good location as well as a backdrop of one of the lakes at the Waterfront. It’s pretty cool.”

Utah businessman Bil Bowser started Noah Corp. in 2003 and opened the first Noah’s in 2007.

“He just wanted a place for people to gather,” says Kirsten Hertz, director of hiring for Noah’s. “He couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a place where you could just rent space that was user friendly and had good customer service and was very simple.”

After experimenting with a couple of types of buildings, Hertz says the company settled on a classic-looking model.

“We wanted to just be a very classic, timeless, kind of high-end venue for a very reasonable price.”

With a neutral template, Hertz says it allows the venue to be versatile for business meetings in the day and parties at night.

“We really do all different types of events,” she says. “It’s very customizable.”

The main hall is the largest space and, depending on the configuration, can hold up to 350 people. It also has an outdoor patio overlooking the lake.

There are hardwood floors, a catering kitchen and a moveable stage that rises out of the floor. The ceiling lowers for easy decorating.

Tables, chairs, linens and audio-visual equipment are provided, but guests have to bring in their own food and decorations.

“Everybody’s food and beverage needs are so different,” Hertz says.

There are other rooms, such as a small conference room and a boardroom with a long table and large leather couches. That room also has a pingpong table, a pool table and shuffleboard so companies using the space for training and other work can take breaks.

“It’s a very comfortable room,” Hertz says. “It’s just a really fun space.”

Guests can rent the entire venue or a small part of it. Hertz says that could be for meetings for as few as two people.

“This is kind of a step up from, ‘Hey, let’s just meet at Starbucks.’”

There are sliding doors that allow rooms to open to each other.

“They’re really nice looking,” Hertz says. “All of the rooms are very versatile.”

There are eight Noah’s venues open nationally and eight under construction.

“Noah’s is a company that’s very focused on why we are all in this industry and why these buildings even exist,” Hertz says. “We sincerely care about each customer and the experience that people have at Noah.”

She says there aren’t other chains similar to Noah’s on a national level.

“From a business perspective, (Bil Bowser) was shocked that this wasn’t a common thing,” Hertz says. “We want people to develop a confidence in the brand of Noah and know what to expect.”

Craig Simon and David Leyh of Landmark Commercial Real Estate handled the deal at the Waterfront.

“It’s just a great thing for Wichita,” Simon says.

“We have a shortage … of venues like that,” he says. “I think we’re going to find some real value as a community to have this.”

To the east of the Homewood Suites by Hilton, Viega has property to build its headquarters. To the east of that is the lake and where Noah’s will go.

Clark says the hotel is “actually another convenience factor” for Noah’s.

Noah’s is purchasing 2.3 acres, which leaves about 2.5 acres on the south side of that lake.

“It’s going to be a beautiful venue,” Simon says. “That whole development is such a nice development anyway.”

‘End of it’

Willi Richert, executor of Jim Pracht III’s estate, said in April that he’d let us know the fate of the late businessman’s L.J. Pracht Co.

“I did promise I’d let you know good or bad, and unfortunately it’s bad,” he says.

The business, a one-of-a-kind wrapping store that also sold jewelry making supplies at 1500 E. Douglas, is closed and isn’t reopening except for a going-out-of-business sale.

“We did try,” Richert says of selling it.

“We had a couple of people interested in it, but it just fell through,” he says. “I would have liked to have seen it continue.”

Pracht’s grandfather opened the store, one of Wichita’s oldest, on Main Street in 1923.

“It’s been an integral part of the city for a lot of years – almost 100 – and you hate to see a business like that close down,” Richert said in April. “It’s a unique store that reflects a different time, but it’s still a necessary product that they sell.”

Through the years, Richert said the store had a huge inventory and served a multitude of customers.

“You name it, if it was associated with the jewelry business,” he said this spring.

The store also used to carry clock parts.

“Amazingly, they served pretty much regionally.”

If sales were slow, Richert said Jim Pracht’s father, Louie, would go to the local aircraft manufacturers to sell his jewelry tools, since they were often the same tools the manufacturers needed.

“They were good people,” Richert previously said of the Prachts.

The store’s sale, which will include supplies and fixtures, starts Sept. 2 and ends Sept. 12.

“That’ll be the end of it,” Richert says.

Though he hoped the store would stay open, Richert says he wants to “thank Wichita for supporting this family for three generations.”

You don’t say

“Hey, this isn’t Gridiron.”

– Sedgwick County Commissioner Tim Norton’s retort after others at the county joked about him getting caught in a traffic jam in Haysville by asking if everyone was driving backward

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.

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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